Find yourself leaving high school before finishing Matric? There are other ways you can educate yourself further and pursue your career. Dean Esterhuizen shares his life journey before and after completing a National Certificate at Orbit TVET College.
“Matric couldn’t come sooner”, many scholars will say. As a learner, I was constantly trying to prove myself to teachers and lecturers. Of course, this made me quite unpopular with the rest of the students. I eventually traded achievement for popularity, as stupid as that may seem.
However, I still only managed to stay in the geek/nerd circles, which was fine by me, seeing as I had a passion for computers from a very young age. I was constantly making maps and mods for games. Not to mention I also had a few small electronic projects that I was working on.
The end is just the Beginning
In Grade 11, I had a huge fallout with a certain school-yard bully and I asked my mother to let me be home-schooled from there onwards. She eventually gave in and it started out fairly well. However, I became lazy and distracted. I had other priorities that seemed more important to me such as playing games and online correspondence with like-minded people. Needless to say, the home-schooling failed and I was to blame.
At this point, I was an adult already and at the age of 18, I had not yet matriculated. Nonetheless, I managed to find a job at a network company, installing fiber and copper networks in and around my area (thanks to a family member). The pay was dismal, at best, and the work was extremely physical. I tried applying for other positions, but without the proper qualifications, there was little to no chance of anyone taking a second glance at my resume.
Applying to Orbit TVET College
It was pure coincidence that I found a brochure stating that a local college, Orbit TVET, was giving away bursaries to people who were technologically inclined. I applied with my grade 11 Mathematics and English knowledge and did the proficiency test as best I could. Luckily I passed and was accepted into the programme!
TVET stands for Technical Vocational Education and Training courses. TVET courses are vocational or occupational by nature meaning students receive education and training focused on specific career paths by doing specialised courses (e.g. Jewellery Design, Hairdressing or Automotive Repair & Maintenance).
This opportunity was exciting, new and I was grateful. Information Technology (ICT NQF L4) was a 4-year course that would give me NQF level 4 with Digital Electronics, Mathematics, Systems Analysis, Design and Computer Programming. Although this is a much higher qualification than a Matric qualification, it, unfortunately, does not have the same status in employers’ eyes. Since taking this route is a fairly new qualification, some might say it is easy to obtain.
The course itself requires, as a minimum, your grade 11 marks as well as a bridging course. Other than that, it is basically open to the public. It was completely different to the standard of education I was used to. I was free and no one was nagging me about my attendance or about completing my homework. If I wanted to get further in life it was entirely up to me. I met quite a few people who found themselves in a similar situation and I quickly made a few friends.
I found many great mentors amongst my lecturers, notably my Systems Analysis and Design lecturer as well as both the Electronics and Programming lecturers. In my third year, I was selected for the National Robotics Competition (NRC) and my team was placed second.
During my studying years, I was not always the ultimate model student. In fact, I had a few close calls due to slacking and not attending lectures in my fourth year. I was seen as a senior and there were many new faces that looked up to my class as we were the leading ones. Indeed, this was a difficult situation balancing my studies and social activities. But somehow it all went okay.
I learned a great deal, changed quite drastically and, in a sense, I grew up. I realized that there was no one to blame for my situation. If anything would ever change it would be entirely up to me. I became a much better person and I attribute that to my mentors and lecturers. They really had a huge influence on my life.
Finding a Job
After college, I immediately started looking for any IT Job I could find. Luckily I found a few interesting placements, although many companies still required degrees and not just diplomas. It was still far better than not having anything at all. Luck was on my side and I managed to find a decent job in Johannesburg as an IT Technician. This led me to use my programming skills by creating reports and small applications wherever required. I then convinced the company I was working for to create a website to sell their products online, which ultimately guided me down the path I am still on today.
I have had many opportunities since then. Some were good, others weren’t. However, that seems to be the way life goes. Looking back, I do have a few regrets and I could definitely be further in life had I made the correct decisions. For example, getting my Matric qualification would have been an easier route to begin my IT career… Nonetheless, for now, I am pleased with where my life is and where I currently find myself. Now that the course is a little more known and is seen as a higher qualification in comparison to the Matric qualification, it all seems to have been worthwhile for me. The little bit of hardship I went through paid off.
To top it off, I have recently decided to improve myself further. I’ve enrolled part-time so that I can start working on my degree through UNISA. Studying will be difficult and lengthy, yet I am looking forward to the challenge.
Cheers to the Journey
After reflecting on my journey, I have learned a great deal about the way the world works in terms of employment and opportunities. If you find yourself in a similar situation I would recommend the following:
- Do what you can to improve yourself.
- Always remember that your CV is usually the first thing potential employers look at. If you don’t intrigue them there it is quite possible that they will never ask to see you in person (check out CV tips here).
- Be outstanding and intriguing.
- Don’t be shy to explain things and always be honest.
- Make them take a second look.
Requirements for Information Communication Technology and Computer Science at Orbit TVET College (NQF level 2 – 4):
- A year-end report for Grade 9, 10, 11 or 12 Certificate
- An NQF Level 1 Qualification
- A Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) assessment to meet the basic requirements for NQF Level 2
- An approved bridging programme designed for the specific purpose to access NQF Level 2
There are many options available to students if they haven’t obtained their matric certificate. This goes for both young and older people. Companies are starting to see the value in vocational diplomas and don’t skip over people just because they don’t have a degree. If you find yourself in a similar position to what Dean was in, perhaps this is the answer you’ve been looking for. To find out more about specific TVET colleges near you, click here.