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Way forward – transition from legacy qualifications and apprentice training to occupational qualifications

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The merSETA memorandum (a copy of which is attached) with the heading LAST ENROLMENT DATE FOR PRE-2009 QUALIFICATIONS from Mr. Thabo Mokwena, manager of Education Training Quality Assurance, dated 25 June 2023 to Skills Development Stakeholders and Partners, refers. 

What are the implications for RMI employer members?

  • Firstly, it is crucial for RMI employers to continue their support and investment in apprentice training, given the significant decline in the number of registered apprentices. The decline of apprentices from 4,704 in 2019 to 3,912 in 2023 represents a decrease of almost 17%. This decline has a direct impact on the availability of skilled and qualified artisans in the industry, leading to increased costs due to the scarcity of such skilled workers.  Additionally, there is a general decline in the number of registered qualified artisans. In 2019, there were 11,745 registered artisans, which decreased to 10,912 in 2023, indicating a decline of almost 7%. This decline further exacerbates the affordability and accessibility of qualified artisans within the industry.
  • The transition to occupational qualifications is already underway, with the official implementation date being 1 July 2023. This advent marks the commencement of the phasing-out period of 12 months of legacy or historic qualifications. RMI employer members should take note of this shift and adapt their training programs accordingly.
  • During the transitional-, or phasing-out period ending 30 June 2024, there is still an opportunity to register apprentices for legacy or historic qualifications. Examples of such trades include the 3-year spray painter trade, as well as the 4-year trades like automotive machinist, motor mechanic, motor body repair (panel beating), diesel mechanic, vehicle body builder, auto electrician, motorcycle & scooter mechanic, and diesel fuel injection mechanic. The provided trades are only examples, and a comprehensive list of merSETA-designated trades can be found at the provided link. (https://www.merseta.org.za/skills-development/curriculum-learning-programmes/apprenticeships/)

Additional implications for RMI employer members include:

  • The training of apprentices registered until 30 June 2024 can continue using existing training methodology such as Competency-Based Modular Training (CBMT), learnerships, and time-based approaches.
  • A teach-out period is allowed for apprentices registered until 30 June 2024 meaning they can complete either 3- or 4-year trades based on their specific programs.
  • Apprentices in CBMT trades follow different levels, each with minimum and maximum durations indicated in weeks. This information should be considered in the context of the communication.
  • Starting from 1 July 2024 no new learners (including apprentices) can be registered under pre-2009 qualifications.  For contextual purposes and explanation, pre-2009 qualifications are qualifications acquired by young apprentices through the CBMT, learnership and time-based delivery methods.
  • RMI employers who haven’t previously trained apprentices but are interested in contributing to alleviate the skills shortage can reach out to the regional merSETA offices’ client liaison officers. Contact details can be found at the provided link https://www.merseta.org.za/contact-us/.
  • As the quality partner to the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), the merSETA plays a crucial role in ensuring that all requirements are met to maintain quality in the apprentice training process. This responsibility extends to both legacy or historic qualifications and the new occupational qualifications. The merSETA is committed to upholding high standards and ensuring that apprentices receive quality training throughout their chosen qualification path.
  • It’s important for employer members to understand that apprentice training doesn’t automatically qualify for merSETA discretionary grant (DG) awards. The DG for apprentice training follows a specific process where employers apply during a funding window, and merSETA applies criteria for grant awards, hence the term “discretionary grant.” Employers should recognise that training their own apprentices is not only crucial for business sustainability but also offers financial benefits in the form of Return on Investment (ROI). The RMI was involved as a local project partner in the development of the merSETA ROI apprentice online calculator, available at the provided link (https://roi.merseta.org.za/).
  • Apprenticeships under Occupational Qualifications also involve the signing of apprentice contracts between the parties involved. The curriculum for Occupational Certificates includes the completion and assessment of knowledge modules (KMs), practical modules (PMs), and workplace modules (WM) to demonstrate competence. Accredited Skills Development Providers (SDPs), formerly known as Training Centres, such as TVET colleges and private training centres, are responsible for signing off on the completion of KMs and PMs. RMI employer members are advised to engage with these training institutions before June 30, 2024, to confirm their accreditation for delivering occupational qualifications, including occupational certificates. Additional information on accredited SDPs can be found by visiting the provided link (https://www.qcto.org.za/databases-of-sdps.html#sdps_engineering_related_occupational_qualifications).
  • Starting from 01 July 2023, RMI employer members and their apprentices have the option to pursue training on Occupational Qualifications, which are considered equivalent to the existing trade qualifications. It is strongly advised that employers first confirm whether the Skills Development Provider (SDP) they plan to work with is accredited to offer the occupational certificate for apprentice training. Collaboration between employers and the accredited SDP is crucial to establish a suitable rotation between the workplace and the training facility, ensuring that all modules in the curriculum are covered adequately. Employers can rest assured that the Occupational Certificate for Automotive Motor Mechanic aligns with CBMT motor mechanic training as well as the Automotive Repair and Maintenance learnership (National Qualification Framework levels 2, 3, and 4). All three qualifications culminate in a trade test, with the occupational certificate concluding with an External Integrated Summative Assessment. Once apprentices are deemed trade-test ready and successfully pass the assessment, they receive a trade certificate, providing evidence of their competence.