Artisan Initiative


South African youth has been socialised to view university education as the ultimate in Higher Education. Many young folk view the hierarchy of education as school (as the main entry prerequisite) and then the options are listed starting with universities at the top (also graded from cool brand to just about the word ‘university’) to universities of technology, private higher education institutions and then somewhere on the outskirts of choice lies public Technical and Vocation Education and Training (TVET formerly FET) colleges.

Based on the number of students presently pre-applying at colleges compared to the past, along with recruitment drives by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training, the number of students in training in these TVE Training institutions remains lower than in the other, perceived-to-be-better institutions.

The motivation for thinking that TVET colleges are inferior is often based on past performance of colleges as catch-nets to those who do not make it in traditional schools. This perception is wrong as colleges, with the introduction of the NCV programmes and the phasing out of the old National Intermediate and Senior Certificates, are shifting their aim away from academically struggling students to vocationally focused youth.

Social re-engineering the thinking of college education could be a time-consuming and risky social strategy and would not be easy, not to mention expensive. The solution to rebrand college and skills & artisanal training (public and private) could therefore be to rebrand the traditionally-thought-of-as-lower careers.

Doing so with regard to these careers would not happen after a series of expensive and extravagant advertising and promotional campaigns, but should be holistically undertaken when viewed from a complete marketing perspective. Merely stating that it is cool to be an artisan is not enough. The present generation of information and sales overload needs to be shown that it is cool. They have more information at their fingertips than is really safe.

The rebranding would need buy-in from the education sector (public and private, school and post-school), government at large and business (commerce and industry)

The Western Cape is privileged to have college staff that are fully aware of the fact that marketing and advocacy are not limited to marketing departments but to all involved in TVE training. The province is further privileged to have an active joint Communication and Advocacy Forum. In 2008 the Western Cape was the first to host a joint Open Day which gained national exposure. This initiative, along with the publishing of a provincial FET Fact file, has since gained considerable momentum.

It has been possible to expand the scope of marketing campaigns thanks to an investment by the office of the Chief Director responsible for TVET colleges. Declaring a FET month as done by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mr Mduduzi Manana and the launching of the Western Cape Regional leg of the World Skills Challenge, provided the platform for the start of this rebranding.

From a marketing perspective the Western Cape Public TVET Colleges needed to find a way to kickstart the rebranding of artisan training in particular; a visual to link the Decade of the Artisan had to be made, and FET Week, as well as the regional competition of the World Skills Challenge had to be incorporated in an initiative which also boosted the enthusiasm of current and future students.

Inspiration was drawn from international initiatives such as the I-amsterdam initiative in the Netherlands. This led to a double concept; putting the ‘I’ back into Art”I”san and the art back into “ART”isan – further linking it to initiatives such as Cape Town being the 2014 Design Capital of the World.

Specifications were drawn up and departments at colleges responsible for artisanal training joined the project by designing and building 1,5m by 2m letters spelling the word ‘artisan’. The word was unveiled during a media event hosted in Cape Town.

Following the letters displayed during the regional World Skills Challenge they will be moved to the design corridor in Cape Town as part of World Design Capital 2014.

Future sustainability of this project was taken into consideration and will be expanded beyond the traditional engineering related artisanal fields to include other artisanal fields and trades including those in general and utility studies such as hairdressing and jewelry design, as well as those in the hospitality fields.