Enterprise asset management company Pragma successfully achieved its second intake of students for its Maintenance Planner qualification in August, with a third intake planned for January next year.
The National Qualification Framework (NQF) Level 5 qualification, offered through the Pragma Academy, was accredited by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) in March this year. The qualification programme launched with its first cohort of students in April.
Currently, 20 students are completing the 15-month qualification, with different intakes running concurrently.
“We are anticipating at least 15 more students in January. Demand seems to be increasing as the industry learns about the programme,” Pragma Academy operations manager Tim Beavon tells Engineering News.
He adds that most of the current students are sponsored by their employers, with only about 10% of them self-funded.
The blended qualification programme comprises online tasks, face-to-face contact sessions and practical workplace applications.
Beavon explains that the online component includes a number of sessions conducted by Skype for Business, whereby students engage with subject experts who can assist them in understanding the reading material and e-learning modules that are available online.
These e-learning modules can be completed at the student’s preferred pace. Students are required to attend at least 80% of the Skype for Business sessions.
Three days of face-to-face contact sessions are also compulsory, requiring that the students travel to the Pragma Academy premises in Midrand, in Gauteng, or Belville, in the Western Cape.
The programme’s modules include an introduction to asset care, maintenance planning and scheduling, root cause analysis, shutdown and outage management and essential non-technical skills.
The statement of work is a practical assessment conducted over about six months once all theoretical work has been concluded. This work is signed off by the student’s line manager and is submitted as a portfolio of evidence.
Beavon explains that this aspect is essential to the qualification, as it enables the students to practically apply what they have learnt, under the supervision of their line manager, thereby ensuring the practical usefulness of the qualification.
“The statement of work lends itself to being flexible towards the customisation of the work environment of the student,” Beavon explains.
He adds that it is vital that the student’s line manager be actively involved in the training.
“There are a few best practice principles that the students need to understand and practically apply in their respective workplaces as part of the programme. If their workplace adheres to a different practice than what we teach as best practice, then we need to have a conversation with the employer so that the students are not disadvantaged by the policies or practices of the employer.”
Consequently, not only do the students benefit from learning best practices but also their employers, to the benefit of the industry.
The rationale for having developed the qualification programme is that the planner plays an essential role in optimising the use of artisans in the workplace and, since artisanal skills are in short supply, training of planners enables organisations to mitigate the situation, says Beavon.
“More effective planning – ensuring that spare parts are available and that work has been properly scoped, taking into account potential pitfalls or health and safety issues and duly considering permits and temporary erections such as scaffolding – will allow for the significant improvement of artisan effectiveness on the shop floor without creating the need for more artisans.”
He adds that South African artisans have been able to qualify as artisans by doing a trade test through a sector education and training authority for a number of years.
“For the first time, maintenance planners can also qualify through Pragma Academy’s programme.”
With the qualification programme being so new, several corporations are aiming to register maintenance planners in their employ.
One barrier to corporations registering maintenance planners in their employ for the qualification is the variety of software applications that corporates use in their maintenance planning.
Many of these companies would prefer that their maintenance planners be trained using their preferred software.
This is possible with the Maintenance Planner qualification, as the QCTO stipulates the use of enterprise asset management software but does not require a specific one. Pragma, therefore, guides the learner activities to prepare for the summative assessment and can also customise enterprise asset management training in line with the qualification programme, according to a client’s preferred software tools.
Beavon believes that the programme is of sufficient value to merit such customisation.
“One planner can optimise the efficiency of up to 20 artisans each. Therefore, if good planning can boost each artisan’s efficiency by about 45% to 50%, then a workforce of about 90 artisans can do the work of about 141,” he concludes.