In an effort to understand the imminent changes in the skills development landscape, i-Fundi were fortunate to host Vijayen Naidoo, Chief Director of Occupational Quality Assurance at the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) on Friday, 29 July as part of our monthly Community of Experts workshop series.

The QCTO is one of three Quality Councils – alongside the Council for Higher Education and Umalusi – established in 2010 in terms of the Skills Development Act. As per the Act, the QCTO is responsible for establishing and maintaining occupational standards and qualifications. Occupational standards specify what a person should know and do in order to effectively carry out the functions of a particular job. They form the key components of a QCTO qualification and should be industry driven.

“The overall vision of the QCTO is to qualify a skilled and capable workforce. We need to find a balance between skills, job creation and a credentials shortage in South Africa” Naidoo stressed. He revealed that, in terms of the White Paper on Post School Education and training, the QCTO is required to take over the Quality Assurance functions for trades and occupations previously conducted by the Sectoral Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) through their ETQA divisions. This is the 2018 vision.

Naidoo noted that one of the key challenges for the QCTO is to simplify the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). He gave an example where there are currently multiple electrician qualifications registered by various SETAs that are not portable across industries, whereas the ideal is to have one qualification with specialisation options for employment in various sectors. Streamlining and reducing the number of qualifications registered on SAQA is one of the tasks facing his team.

Another challenge the QCTO has to deal with is integrating two different qualification systems, historically registered qualifications and the new QCTO occupational qualifications. The QCTO will need to align these two systems, which is labour intensive. However, this realignment of qualifications remains at the top of the QCTO priority list.

Participants were interested to know what changes can be expected in the new skills development landscape, post-2018. In summary:

  1. The role of the QCTO is to oversee the design, implementation, assessment and certification of occupational qualifications on the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF).
  1. Qualification design and development will be managed by Development Quality Partners, with input from industry through Communities of Expert Practice (CEPs). “By industry for industry” is a key concept driving the new approach to skills development. Industry is actively encouraged to get involved in the qualification development process to ensure the relevance of the qualification.
  1. Assessment Quality Partners (AQPs), comprised of industry experts, will be formed by the QCTO. One of their key functions will be to develop, organise and implement final External Integrated Summative Assessments (EISA) for qualifications within their scope.
  1. EISA will be a national, external, standardised assessment system, replacing the final summative assessment currently in place, where competency must be proven to receive a national certificate.
  1. Qualifications will comprise three components: Knowledge, Practical and Workplace, with a minimum of 20% for each component, depending on the requirements of the qualification.
  1. Learning modules will replace unit standards, as modules are more substantive, allowing for better integration, portability and transferability.
  1. Fundamental Learning Components [FLC] replace fundamental unit standards for qualifications at NQF levels 3-4.
  1. There will be two entry points onto an occupational qualification, either through the workplace, or via an accredited skills development provider.

Naidoo made a telling remark regarding learnerships, internships and apprenticeships. In a recent visit to Germany to look at their ‘dual system’ for apprenticeships, he was impressed that industry there did not see formal occupational skills development as a burden, but rather a fundamental component of their success and ability to grow talent. He suggested that South African employers could learn from this approach.

Attendants were happy to hear that Recognition of Prior Learning remains an integral part of the new qualification framework and that RPL learners will write the same EISA as a route to competence.

According to Naidoo, the 2018 SETA landscape transition is an ongoing process in which the Minister of Higher Education and Training will make a determination. Meanwhile, preparations are in full swing for the QCTO to assume its role and responsibilities in the new skills development environment.