Cape Town - Further Education and Training (FET) colleges will work closer with the Sector Education Training Authorities (Setas) to help put students on one-year workplace placement programmes.
Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande said his department on Sunday took over control of the Setas from the Department of Labour.
He said that while it was business as usual at the Setas, the greatest weakness in the country's skills system was the lack of alignment between FET colleges and Setas
"That is what really requires a big improvement," said Nzimande on Wednesday, who added that the National Board of FET colleges and the department would carry out an urgent national audit on the various institutions' governance and administration.
The audit would also look at whether there were colleges that needed assistance on quality assurance.
Nzimande said challenging work lay ahead to make FET colleges institutions of choice for many more young people and adults.
"The shape of our post-secondary system is not appropriately balanced between universities and colleges, and while access to universities must be increased, enrolment in colleges must double in the next five years," he said.
The department was also looking at better aligning the needs and provisions of training and skills development and would be looking at developing better research so that data on such things as skills shortage could be readily available, he said.
Nzimande said while some people had been saying "was it not wastage that there were three Setas in financial sector or that some Setas were weak", he didn't believe that there was a need to scrap any Setas at present.
"I don't buy this idea that just because there are problems with these Setas that we don't need them."
Setas were mandated to spend R16 billion and training, with the National Skills Fund making available a further R5 billion.
"Our commitment is on really strengthening the Setas and that they are accountable and able to spend this money in a systematic way."
He said there was also a need to strengthen participation in the boards of the Setas as trade unions aren't always consulted.
Commenting on the government's R2.4 billion training layoff scheme, Nzimande said the department would monitor Setas that were carrying out training under the scheme, to ensure that "each and every rand and cent is well spent".
Nzimande said while Setas had recently submitted their applications for re-licensing, he had asked them to look at their plans again and realign these with government's key goals, while he also extended Setas terms until 2011.
Debate had raged for some time on whether the 23 Setas were responding to the problem of skills properly.
Nzimande said a skills development summit was being planned for first half of next year and would look at questions such as whether the number of Setas should be scaled down or not.
He said though the Setas continued to face challenges, government was committed to keeping them.
"We think they are the best vehicles we have at the moment," said Nzimande.