Do you love learning and people? Do you thrive on challenges and have leadership skills? Are you organised and a good communicator? It might seem a far-off goal but South Africa does have a shortage of skilled leaders, especially at FET colleges. Have you ever thought about setting yourself an ambitious target for your future and working your way towards it?

You’ll have some knowledge of a principal in general as, throughout your schooling, you will have come across the principal of your school. Have you thought what it takes to get into that position? And then how does someone go on to become a principal of a FET college? You don’t need to have been a school principal in order to become a FET principal as the pathways to these two are often quite different.

What do you need in order to become a FET principal?
FET means Further Education and Training. South Africa has many FET colleges which offer qualifications to Grade 10 to 12. These are mainly focused on vocational and occupational aspects, including career-oriented training. South Africa also has over 50 registered TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges. Each of them offers a wide variety of qualifications for people in a field ranging from Hospitality to Boat Building to Engineering and Information Technology.

Initially, you will need to have an undergraduate degree or NQF (National Qualifications Framework) in one of the fields that is offered by FET colleges and in which you are interested. If you are interested in mechanical engineering, then you will initially need a degree or NQF qualification in this field. If you want to lecture in hairdressing, then you will need a professional qualification in this trade.

Once you have qualified in your field of study, it is really useful to go out and work in the sector. This enables you to understand the practical elements of your training. Many lecturer posts require you to have a deep theoretical understanding of your subject (usually beyond an undergraduate degree as in a Master or Doctorate) but a FET lecturer also needs to understand the practical side of the job too.

You will also need to have an understanding of education and teaching itself – not just your field of expertise. You will need some form of teacher training – whether it be a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) or an ADTVT (Advanced Diploma in Training and Vocational Training). This, then, prepares you for the teaching component of your work as a lecturer.

What does a lecturer do?
Lecturers teach and carry out research in universities and higher education colleges. They teach both academic and vocational subjects to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. They are also usually involved in contributing to the research done in their departments and they publish their work in books and journals.
They also:
– Develop teaching material
– Prepare and deliver lectures and practical demonstrations
– Organise fieldwork
– Mark student’s work
– Tutor a small group of students
– Supervise students research
– Attend conferences
– Participate in professional development
– Do necessary administrative tasks
– Manage budgets
– Read academic journals

How do you become a principal of a FET College?
You will need to have worked some time as a lecturer and then taken on a leadership role in your department. Once you have worked your way to a Senior Management role in a FET college, you will begin to realise your desire to become a principal. It usually requires about 5 years or more of senior management experience before you have the necessary skills to take on the role of principal. In this time, you will become competent in administrative and high-level decision-making skills that you will require as a principal.

What kind of person do you need to be in order to be a FET principal?
– Be prepared to take a stepping stones approach to your career
– Be comfortable in taking on a leadership role
– Be an expert problem-solver
– Go without a daily routine as your day will take unexpected turns
– Take criticism
– Always look for ways to grow professionally

Where can you study to become a FET or TVET lecturer?
Once you have studied in your field of expertise, you can study to be a FET or TVET lecturer here:
– UNISA: Bachelor of Education in Senior Phase and Further Education and Training Teaching –
– Tshwane University of Technology: Advanced Diploma in Technical and Vocational
Teaching (Adv. Dip TVT) –
– Nelson Mandela University: Adv. Dip TVT –
– Cape Peninsula University of Technology – ADTVT (offered on a part-time basis over two years) –
– Cape Peninsula University of Technology: Fundani – Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (PDHETL) (This provides a professional status to academic staff in Higher Education Institutions who did not have a teaching qualification. Courses are run on a full-time and/or a part-time basis provided there are sufficient students.)

This development of The Advanced Diploma in Technical and Vocational Education and Training Teaching is still undergoing development at various higher education institutions.

You can train to become a school based or FET lecturer at many universities such as:
– University of Cape Town (UCT):
– Stellenbosch University:
– University of the Western Cape:
– University of Pretoria:
– University of the Witwatersrand:
– North-West University:
– Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University:
– University of KwaZulu-Natal:

It does take a number of years of education and then experience to become a principal of a FET College. On the way, though, you will earn a very good income as a lecturer and develop managerial skills. It’s really worthwhile taking a long-term view of your career as you will be in it for all of your working life. So go on, think big and see where it takes you!

Career Planet: FET Lecturer
Department of Higher Education – Qualifications for lecturers in TVET
7 Signs You’re Destined to become a Principal –
Contributing to lecturer professionalization with TVET sector – M&G