Desmond April joined the Central Johannesburg TVET College (CJC), a public further education and training institute, in 2016 and under his leadership, the college has sought to create a culture of learning and teaching that embraces the current generational demands
Please could you provide us with a history of the college’s formation and establishment, particularly as a response to the national strategy to restructure South Africa’s educational landscape? Additionally, what are the various qualifications you offer and where are your campuses based?
The college was established on 11 September 2003 when the late Minister, Professor Kader Asmal, launched the then Further Education and Training (FET) sector at our Alexandra Campus. The college has eight campuses, i.e. Alexandra, Ellis Park, Parktown, Troyeville, Smit Street, Langlaagte, Riverlea and Crown Mines. The campuses are spread within a radius of approximately 15 kilometres from the central office in Parktown.
The campuses offer seven fields of study for a total of 96 programmes spread across 6 National Accredited Technical Education Diplomas (NATED) and 3 NQF levels. The college is geographically well-positioned and serves the Johannesburg, Sandton, Rosebank and the Roodepoort Central Business Districts (CBD).
The diagram illustrates the location of our campuses:
The Ellis Park Campus offers Report 191 (NATED) and the National Certificate (Vocational) [NC(V)] Engineering Technology programmes. The Parktown Campus offers Business Studies for NATED programmes only as the Langlaagte Campus offers the NC(V) Business Studies programmes. Our Troyeville Campus specialises in the NC(V) ICT Programmes whereas the Crown Mines Campus offers NATED programmes for Arts and Music. The Smit Street Campus specialises in Hospitality programmes for both NATED and NC(V). The Riverlea Campus offers NATED Travel and Tourism as well as NATED Engineering Technology up to the N3 level. Our Alexandra Campus offers a broader basket of NATED, NC(V) and NQF programmes in Engineering Technology and Humanities.
Why is it so crucial to provide improved access to a more diverse student population, especially in a country such as ours?
Approximately 30% of our students walk past colleges in their local communities and provinces to study at CJC. For many of them, CJC represents a big metropolitan college in the heart of the economic hub of the country.
Please tell us more about your governing board. Your governance focus is under the leadership of the College Council and consolidates Council Committees in terms of the FET Act 16 of 2006 and adopted College Statutes—how has this served to improve risk management and governance effectiveness?
The council established various committees to oversee governance and management compliance with policy requirements. The committees also evaluate and monitor how operations are aligned to the strategic objectives of the college. The Audit and Risk Committee closely monitor key risks as identified and how these risks are mitigated. They provide invaluable support and guidance. The improved governance is evident in the external audit reports for the past two years.
What are your various College Council structures and what is the respective role of each?
The college is fortunate to have a functional and effective governing council under the leadership of Mr Caleb Mabaso and Dr Raynauld Russon, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson respectively.
The council established the following sub-committees to assist it to fulfil its judiciary functions:
The Audit and Risk Committee (ARC) is chaired by Mr Bonolo Ramokhele, who ensures compliance in all the key functional areas. The ARC also addresses issues of risk and the findings of the external auditor. They support management to address all key issues as reported by the Auditor General.
The Finance Committee is supported by Mr Lesego Tlhabanelo as the Chairperson and Dr Russon. The Fincom ensures that finances are aligned to the strategic objectives of the college.
The HR Committee is chaired by Dr Natalie Skeepers. The committee supports and advises management on all HRMD matters.
Ms Zandile Mpungose, as the Chairperson of the Estates Committee, provides support and guidance in all matters related to infrastructure, security services and fleet management.
Mr DK Khuselo is the Chairperson of the Innovation, Linkages and Development (ILD) Committee, which focus on the business side of the college. The ILD unit explores partnerships, networking and business opportunities in both the public and private sectors.
The Student Support Services (SSS) Committee is led by Dr Modise Manota. This committee ensures that the SSS unit provides adequate and appropriate support to our core business of learning and teaching.
Mr Gerrie Booyse and Ms Mpungose represent the council on the Academic Board. The board evaluate the implementation of the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and academic performance.
How is the college performing against planned strategic outputs?
Academic performance is not what it used to be as the college has experienced some challenges to realign its organisational culture. We endeavour to create a culture of learning and teaching that embraces the demands of the current generation. The challenge is to balance a high demand for access against quality outputs considering learning and teaching resources.
Please provide us with an overview of your early life, educational and career background. What set you on your current career path and prepared you for your present role?
I started as a Boilermaker and joined the technical college sector in January 1984. I worked my way through the ranks of Senior Lecturer, the Head of Department and Deputy Principal Academic at the then Highveld Technical College. Joining the Johannesburg Technical College on a horizontal move as the Deputy Principal Academic was a game changer.
I spent some time in private education at Regenesys Business School and Rosebank College. I learnt the business model for providing good quality education and training.
I then worked at Umalusi, the Quality Council for the FET sector, as a Quality Assurance Manager. The lessons learnt truly assisted me to improve my understanding of the quality side of education and training.
What are some of the most important leadership lessons you’ve learnt during the course of your career and how have they moulded your personal brand of leadership?
During my journey, I learnt the importance of an organisational culture. The challenge in public education is how easy it is to adopt a culture that that is counterproductive to the core business of providing good quality education and training.
Thus, it is imperative to have an in-depth understanding of the stakeholders and all the factors that impact on providing education and training in the public sector. Each college is unique and each campus within a college is unique. This requires a more flexible management and leadership style whilst complying with institutional policies and requirements.
What does good, effective leadership mean to you and what separates a good leader from a great one?
I’ve seen evidence of good, effective leadership amongst some of the principals in the TVET college sector. Their colleges are good examples of what a current-day TVET college in South Africa should be. I believe these colleagues to be great leaders as they have persevered and achieved against all odds.