Trade unions need to get involved in the development of quality tertiary education in the country, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Thursday.
Workplace training could not be separated from access to theoretical education, he said in notes prepared for delivery at the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu) conference in Centurion.
"It is also essential that workers take an active interest in colleges and universities, as their participation in governance structures of these institutions is vital for their functionality," he said.
He called for workers and trade unions to influence policies and curricula.
Increased outsourcing and casualisation of workers, as well as labour brokering, was having a negative impact on workplace training, he argued.
"It is often the case that casual workers and especially those hired by labour brokers are not trained. Labour brokers just [do] the minimum training, if at all, since they may not need these workers at all times, or for a long time," Nzimande said.
Saccawu needed to take the matter up, given the extent of casualisation and labour brokerage in its sector.
He said the trade union movement needed to be more vigilant with regards to Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta) funds.
"Setas are multi-billion rand institutions that should be playing a critical role in skills development. Unfortunately the trade union movement is not vigilant enough on this front."
He said the higher education department was planning to introduce a large-scale Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system countrywide.
It was intended to cater for the employed and unemployed, those who had left school early, or had never been to school.
"Post-school therefore does not equal post-matric, as our challenge embraces both those who have done and not done matric."
The department would explore a new type of college, "over and above" current Further Education and Training colleges. These "community colleges" would be built through transformation of existing Adult Basic Education and Training centres.
"Such new colleges can focus on improvement of formal education for individuals with low levels of education, as well as short training courses required by communities and their members."
PSET would also include distance education or "after-hours" programmes, to cater for working adults who wanted to improve their education.
"This is absolutely important for the working class, especially the black working class, which was [under apartheid] deprived of any opportunities to improve their education," he said.