by Johan Swanepoel, ESETA
The aim of this article is to inform employers on the status of a person who has achieved an NQF level 4 qualification, compared with a person who has passed a trade test at an accredited assessment centre.
An apprentice who has obtained at least an N2 certificate, having completed all the required training and practical weeks, may sit for a trade test. If successful, the apprentice obtains the status of an artisan under the Manpower Training Act of 1981.
With the promulgation of the Skills Development Act and the introduction of learnerships, the situation has changed.
In consultation with national stakeholders in all previously recognised trades the Energy Seta (ESETA) transformed all curricula into unit standard-based national certificates, registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) at SAQA.
The previous four-year apprenticeship contract was redesigned into different levels on the NQF.
Apprenticeships ranging from one year to four years were transformed more or less into four levels on the NQF: NQF Level 1 to NQF Level 4.
Thus, a learner who achieves an NQF level 4 certificate has done at least what an apprentice would have done in four years.
The learner has also achieved all the fundamental unit standards of all four levels. This person should then possess more knowledge and have higher quality learning than an artisan with an N2 certificate.
Some employers complain that the NQF learner has not passed a national trade test. They do not realise, however, that in terms of NQF principles the learner underwent continuous assessment and was subjected to a final integrated summative assessment at every level.
Thus, instead of one trade test of at most two days for an apprentice (assessing 3 – 4 years of training in two days), the learner is assessed continuously during training, passing a final summative assessment four times. He/she also has the advantage of being trained to communicate and work on a computer on the latest technology. Clearly, the graduate of this system is a ‘better qualified person’.
The curriculum, qualifications and assessment for learners is reviewed every three years, and performed using the latest technology.
The apprentice, on the other hand, is assessed once after about three years on outdated technology and assessment methods.
Taking this into account, a person who obtains an NQF Level 4 certificate has met and possibly exceeded all the qualification criteria equivalent to a trade test, and has obtained artisan status.