Non-formal adult education and training (NFET) in South Africa was adopted in 1990 with the aim to respond to the learning needs of adults who do not have access to formal education; to increase their employment opportunities; to reduce the high rates of poverty in the country and to enhance social inclusion (Aitchison, 2007:2-4). The study was informed by a concern that graduates from NFET centres in KwaZulu-Natal continue being unemployed and excluded from the labour market.
The goal of the study was to assess the enabling environments (internal and external) of non-formal adult education and training centres in enabling trainees’ employment and poverty reduction in KwaZulu-Natal. The researcher used the mixed methods research approach in conducting the study. Quantitative data was gathered through a survey and qualitative data by means of multiple-case studies and interviews. A total sample of 472 participants was drawn from 21 centres in four districts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
The study’s findings indicate that at micro-level, the internal training delivery environments are significantly effective in contributing to technical and business skills acquisition. At macro-level, the policies, regulations and institutional environments create external enabling environments to foster skills utilisation in the labour market. However, at meso-level (centre level), the weak institutional centre linkages result in graduates not having access to essential post-training support, community resources, public goods and services which could enable them to access employment in KwaZulu-Natal.
The study concludes that NFET programmes can foster adult trainees’ employment if the centres create adequate linkages with external enabling environments for skills utilisation in the labour market in KwaZulu-Natal. Adult centres that focus on self-employment in income-generating activities are more likely to create external enabling environments in terms of formal and informal linkages with other stakeholders who provide post-training support to graduates. The study proposes an integrated framework for NFET centres to create the internal and external enabling environments for wage-employment and/or self-employment of NFET graduates in KwaZulu-Natal. To ensure that the adult NFET programmes lead to employment, a key recommendation from the study is that centre managers should establish strong institutional linkages with community leaders, public agencies and private sectors from the beginning of the training programmes.