This project is aimed at assisting the national Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) to develop curricula for new and revised occupational qualifications currently being registered by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
The QCTO process typically begins with consultation with industry on what a practitioner of the target occupation defining needs to know and be able to do in order to be considered competent. This process produces a list of critical, outcome competences for each occupation that becomes the basis for the design of the new qualification. In the artisan trades, they are often referred to as ‘A21 qualifications’ - i.e. “Artisans for the 21st Century”.
The next step is to develop a training curriculum, called the National Occupational Curriculum Content (NOCC), for each new qualification. The structure, content and methodology of each NOCC must be defined in sufficient detail for the public TVET colleges (or any other vocational training institution) to present it as a nationally-standardised qualification.
During the second half of 2015, under the aegis of the Dual System Apprenticeship Pilot project, SSACI led the development of the first two NOCCs (for electricians and plumbers) through a process intended to serve as a model for the future. These curricula are being piloted in four public TVET colleges from March 2016 onwards.
An important principle in the design of the NOCCs is that they combine all the required theoretical inputs and simulated practice at a college or training centre with on-the-job experience in the workplace in a single, integrated learning programme. This is different from traditional apprenticeships in South Africa, where knowledge of trade theory is often presented, assessed and certificated separately from workplace experience and applied competence. It also differs from learnerships and other unit-standard-based learning programmes in which atomised skills can be developed and qualifications awarded at different levels, without necessarily implying an ability to do the whole job. By contrast, each NOCC leads to certified competence to practise the target trade or occupation.
In NOCCs designed by SSACI, each unit or module of the learning programme is driven by a practical task that requires knowledge inputs and practical application. It also incorporates a standard work-cycle of plan-implement-evaluate.
SSACI’s contribution to the NOCCs was acknowledged by Dr Heidi Peters, the QCTO’s Director: Occupational Qualifications Design, who in her address to the 2015 Pan-African TVET Conference said that:
“Research conducted by SSACI convinced us that the purpose of an occupational qualification is to qualify the learner to practise an occupation… SSACI has also helped us to conceptualise integrated, competence-based, summative assessments for each qualification… We are now piloting the new qualification format and content with SSACI.”