WITH the introduction of the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations (QCTO) there are imminent changes that will affect trades and occupations - and obviously, the electrical industry.
I thought it would be relevant to provide information on the QCTO because this council will be the body that will dictate the way forward for trades - including electrical trades - in this country.
Information about the QCTO can be found on various SETA and educational web pages, and I have referenced a Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) document, which was commissioned by the Department of Labour, called ‘The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO)'.
One of the questions raised about the new system is: "Why do we need a new body when we are coming to terms with the current NQF system?"
Well, those of us who have experience in the NQF environment will tell you that although there are some good things, there are also many frustrating issues. A good example that can be found in the electrical environment is that if you go to different SETAs for a qualification you will find that each SETA has its own set of rules. It is easier to obtain a qualification at some SETAs, while others have complicated rules that make qualification more difficult.
I have had experiences with some SETAs that have made me wonder whether the rules are not actually on paper but rather in someone's head and, depending on who I am speaking to, requests for information can result in different versions of the ‘rules' being put forward. So, although there is agreement between SETAs on the NQF principles, this is not reflected in practice by some SETAs.
The Skills Development Act Amendment Bill introduced us to the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), which will coordinate learning towards occupational competence within our national learning system. The QCTO has started up and has already achieved much to date and, I believe, it will be fully functional by next year.
The QCTO will manage and coordinate qualifications in the occupational qualifications framework in terms of their development, provision, assessment and impact. Its scope will be the development and quality assurance of fit-for-purpose occupational qualifications and unit standards as required by the labour market for work and employment purposes.
These qualifications will be certificated as National Occupational Awards or National Skills Certificates, very similar to trade test certificates that were issued by the Department of Labour in the past.
Another significant change is that SETA ETQA's functions will be merged into the QCTO - and the QCTO will quality assure the assessment for qualification. This, in plain English, would mean that before a person is awarded a qualification they would have to do a ‘trade test' - or similar - that will be monitored and administered by the QCTO only. This way, if a person comes to your office with an electrical trade test certificate, you will be able to trace it through the QCTO and, because every electrician will write the same trade test, you will have peace of mind that they would have a similar set of knowledge and skills.
The current SETAs will continue to operate as they have in the past but their quality assurance activities will be taken to the QCTO. In my opinion, the QCTO will begin to remove some of the frustrations experienced by the SETAs and this should allow learning to be done without having to jump through different hoops for different SETA's to achieve the same qualifications.
I believe that it has become necessary for us to start ensuring that the status of artisans - and any other qualifications - gets the recognition it deserves. This would mean that if you undertake to be part of the development of a learner, that you would have to take your responsibility seriously. If we do not work together, the learner will not be successful in the qualifying test.
In conclusion, the QCTO has already done quite a lot of work and, from what I have heard, is putting measures in place for when it becomes active in April 2012. I look forward to the QCTO starting its work. While I accept that there will be some obstacles to overcome, there is light at the end of the tunnel and I believe that a common assessment will begin the process of levelling the playing fields. And this can only improve the quality of artisans.
It is common knowledge that what you put in is what you get out.
Nick du Plessis is the managing director of P and T Technology (Pty) Ltd. He is a Master Installation Electrician, has a National N Diploma, a Master Certificate in Training and Development from Rand Afrikaans University and Certificate in Occupational Development ETD practices NQF 6, and is a registered HR Practitioner with the South African Board for Personnel Practice. He is a registered assessor and moderator with various SETAs.
Nick also serves on various committees and bodies such as:
- Association of Accredited Electrical Inspection Bodies of South Africa, (chairman);
- Installation Electrician, Master Installation Electrician Committee (member)
- South African National Accreditation Systems (STC member)
- Energy Sector Education Training Authority ETQA (member)
- CHIETA SETA PST (member/consultant)