Artisan aid prior learning, experience to be recognised

17th October 2008 By: Fatima Gabru

Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education Training Authority (Merseta) has identified the need for the recognition of prior learning (RPL) of artisan aids in the metals sector industry and has extended the pilot phase of its RPL programme to the end of March 2009, after which the programme should be rolled out.

Merseta is in the research phase for the RPL programme to develop the necessary infrastructure and tools for an effective programme. This would include assessment criteria tools, RPL advisors and moderators and assessment centres. Currently, no such infrastructure exists.

RPL is a different training intervention from normal skills and training programmes, in that there will be formal recognition of previously acquired experiential skills for artisan aids, working under an artisan.

Merseta chamber manager Hosea Morapedi comments, "Most of the artisan aids tend to be either illiterate or have a very low level of formal education and their skills are not recognised by employers. These lower skilled workers are thus paid much lower wages than the level of work actually carried out by them. RPL would take into account the extent of the experiential learning and accord the artisan aid a certificated acknowledgement of these skills."

Infrastructure Provision

This year, Merseta has engaged in a different approach with industry on training programmes. Companies have had to enter into a signed memorandum of agreement with Merseta, committing them to either a year or two of training programmes and resources from Merseta.

Merseta provides course work projects, which creates learning materials for companies to use in training programmes. It aims to ensure that there are registered qualifications and learnerships in place for the engineering sector. The learnerships have to be supported with relevant course work, and accredited training providers, from the public and private sectors, to tackle the identified problem areas in skills and training development.

Morapedi comments that when skills and training programmes are initiated at Merseta, labour and employers are made aware of them from a very early stage, ensuring a buy-in from them. Steering committees for the programmes, made up of business, labour and Seta officials, advise on the programmes or projects. This system aligns the programmes with the needs of all the stakeholders involved, ensuring open communicastion and mitigates any risk factors.

"There are mega-training projects such as the Accelerated Artisan Training Project (AATP) and the Small Micro Enterprise (SME) Voucher Training, which industry has never been exposed to before, which is why there are regular meetings to monitor progress. At the project management meetings, challenges are addressed and suggestions made to mitigate any perceived risks within programmes," says Morapedi.

The Sector Skills Plan

The five-year Sectors Skills Plan (SSP) process reviews each sector under the Merseta's responsibility on a yearly basis. Skills demand from the industry and the supply of skills training from the Seta is reviewed. Problematic areas, and areas where scarce and critical skills training and development is required are identified, reviewed and worked upon and the skills course or training developed and delivered.

The AATP is one of the fast-track programme projects offered by Merseta. The AATP tackles the critical artisan skills shortage in the metal sector by providing training for artisans in the metal and engineering sectors, which include the metal, motor, plastics, auto and new tyre subsectors.

Morapedi says the AATP is one of the programmes that assisted Merseta to deliver on scarce artisan need in the industry. The AATP commenced in the second quarter of 2007. "It will run throughout the second term of the Setas up to 2010, and even beyond that timeframe, depending on when learners register for programmes," he adds.

On the criticism of poor service delivery, Morapedi says Merseta is measured by the new service level agreements entered into with the Department of Labour (DoL), against which it is measured. The new service level agreement, which each Seta in the jurisdiction of the DoL has to adhere to, has clear deliverables and clear targets, which is renewed every year. For the financial year-end March 31, 2008, Merseta was rated a 4,3+ out of 5 by the DoL. Morapedi notes that Merseta views this as a success of its service delivery, in that it met and exceeded some of the department targets.

Beyond 2010

Morapedi believes that the national skills drive through the Setas will exist beyond 2010. He says that Setas play a critical role in resolving the country's skills needs. However, there are current and tentative discussions on the merging of certain Setas into clusters, which is in line with the new Industry Policy announced by the Department of Trade and Industry. "These are issues already being discussed by stakeholders to map the way forward for Setas," he concludes.

To watch the video interview with Hosea Morapedi go to www.engineeringnews.co.za and click on ‘Video Clips'