"Red tape" is the description often used to describe accreditation processes. While understanding the need for quality, accredited programmes in order to redress the exclusion from education and training for the majority of the population, have we gone overboard and tried to include programmes that are better remaining outside the "red tape" system?  Minister Nzimande recently raised the "skills revolution".  So it's appropriate to ask: Is "red tape" hampering the skills revolution? 

Andrew Rose posted the comment quoted in full below; he refers specifically to IT programmes.  I also have had the experience of saying to an IT provider, there are no unit standards covering your (essential business) programme.  The time and cost doesn't merit accreditation because your customers aren't interested in being assessed as competent - more time and money.

So should we clearly be distinguishing between these business skill programmes - that change and are updated frequently, and those that do require formal accreditation?

Years ago when studying Marx, our lecturer observed that neo-Marxists were spending so much time analysing the theory in their offices, that they'd forgotten about the revolution on the ground.  Are we hampering the skills revolution with too much red tape in too many offices?

And if accreditation doesn't bring easy articulation, then isn't it all a waste of time anyway?   

Andrew Rose's comment: "My immediate thoughts upon reading this"

(SAQA notification of re-registration of qualifications, see

"are of - more admin and time down the drain, past and

future. And how many training projects in the bigger scheme of "spend in our industry" actually require what I think often amounts to "red tape"? I acknowledge that some where standards are necessary, but I wonder how much time and money actually gets spent on this admin.

If I had the time, and was some sort of "educational commentator", I would love to get to the bottom of the cost of this - to providers, those needing to learn and the administrators involved in tracking all of this. That is, if 100 million rand is spent in the design and development of training material, what is the actual percentage spent on SAQA linked material?

In more than 10 years I've been involved in the design and dev of training (mainly in IT), I've often had to consider the reality of matching material to SAQA requirements. But the will to spend money by clients and business on the admin related to meeting and administering SAQA always negates taking the "final step" and getting courses accredited. That business is often happy (and rightly so in most cases) to get material out and to focus on engaging with their customers.

In the late 90's, when I headed the Training Design and Development team at Softline Pastel, after many weeks of training to get training courses accredited, I ended up advising the board and investors to "opt out" and that we just go for it. Nearly 15 years later, many people have been through Pastel's training centres, and are still going through the centres - with minimal adverse learning expriences. Probably because people and business actually just need to get on with it.

The revenue generated for Softline Pastel has probably been worth more than their software (left there about 8 years ago by the way).

My point is that your news takes me back to business decisions I was making more than 10 years ago. In various industries that I have serviced since then, I've found myself advising my clients to "only worry about SAQA when you need to". Business needs to get on with what they do, administrators need to et on with what they do.

Are SAQA requirements the luxury of learning or business institutions that have the resources (human and financial) to manage the design, development and delivery of their courses?

Are SAQA accredited courses a niche environment - where consumers have to udnerstand what they get, and trainers need to udnerstand what they're meant to be delivering?

How much training in the years after graduating needs to be SAQA accredited?

What is the angle that business needs to buy into in order to justify the extra spend?

Should true learning not be measured on job productivity and business creativity, and not on "accredited certificates".


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My immediate response is YES - YES - YES and always has been. Nothing has changed and nothing will change without a full about face on the whole issue of skills development. I have said it before and say it again - SAQA and the SETAS need a combined meeting with providers and key role players in order to address the needs of industry.

SETAS do their own thing individually - SAQA does its own thing and the QCTO will no doubt do the same. The Minister of higher Education some time ago stated (I need to find this again) that there was really no need for accredited programmes just programmes that filled a specific need, covered the required subject matter, and was delivered professionally and by professionals.

Andrew Rose is correct - we are going backwards and not forward. As training providers and subject matter experts we should be permitted to train learners in order to impart knowledge. On completion the learners should be able to undertake an assessment related to the subject matter and not related to the training course -(preparing learners just for assessment). 

Just think of the recent developments regarding text books at schools - teachers were saying they could not teach because they had no text books ????? These teachers are supposed to be subject matter experts and should be able to teach without text books, they should be fully conversand with the subject matter of the curriculum. The same applies to training providers. How many are in fact subject matter experts or have the required knowledge. These are the issues that need to be addressed and not the contend of a unit standard. 

So yes we should distinguish between business skill programmes that change and are in need of updating frequently, and those that require formal accreditation? Both are necessary and could be delivered by different provider institutions. 


A further contributing factor that forces companies to put their employees on unit standard accredited courses is the BBBEE points earned for these courses as opposed to the short courses. The same goes for our company that is a national software supplier, but we battle to convince the client base to upskill their users on the software, as our software is not generic and addresses a specific market sector only, and therefore we cannot register the training against a unit standard. Let alone the red tape that takes a "umangious" amount of time to even attempt registration of a unit standard for a user-specific software skills program.  

I asked the question to our executive the other day - do you want our line managers to train their staff to earn BBBEE points on programs that they do not need, or do you want to train your staff to upskill them to do a better job? 

Absolutely agree Sylvia!

As I have said before - in other posts - we are expected to invest tons of time dumbing down facilitators to meet archaic Unit Standards and invest a fortune in time and effort to get through the never-ending red tape.It is crazy.

Most innovative, highly-skilled small training businesses are simply unable to survive this madness.

Is this a Skills Revolution or a Skills Reduction?

I think that the philosophy behind the skills revolution is fantastic. As a person that has also been involved in the system since its inception, I have learnt a great deal and I try to incorporate this thinking in my daily practice and planning.

Unfortunately, the implementation of the system has never seemed to mature beyond being a "tick box compliance exercise" for learning providers operating in businesses. I don't see too many providers who understand enough to "walk the talk." Other than learnerships, our national skills development system is today mostly irrelevant in the business world.

If we are to really empower South Africans, I think we need to change from our 20th century control mindset to a 21st century enabling mindset in which we take some radical steps to ensuring that every South African has access to the world of information and learning at little or no cost.

Critical actions that we need to take include:

- providing extremely cheap and extremely fast internet throughout the country, and

- that we follow the examples of Nigeria and India in making tablet and other mobile learning technology cheap enough so every South African can buy or at least use good technology to access all the free learning that is available and is becoming available on the web (eg the Khan Academy and Standford online).

Other countries are making these changes. They are our direct competitors!


Yes it is hampering it,and No,since the Democratic era,RSA have recieved so many tourists who intern became burden to us.They are here to stay,from Nigeria,Zimbabwe,Zambia with their fly-by-nights institutions to exploit our poor communities without knowledge which is credible or inferior.Red tape hampers on hands-on occupational directed programmes because they are limited.Most occupational programmes don't need don't need that pain of going endless processes for accreditation.I believe accreditation will be much helpful for career pathing,and upskilling non to artisans,because in technical opportunities nobody can be recognised,unless certified.

Yes  - The problem as I see it after 11 years in this industry, is summed up by a comment by a highly respected educationist who said, "The competent are being governed by the incompetent". Now that does not mean everyone is incompetent in the SETAS etc, there are some great people working there, but that the system is not fit for purpose. In many cases we are trying to shoehorn sucessful training programmes into a Unit standard framework which simply does not work.

Unfortunatly I think this has just become a political soccer ball, and little to do with real world skills development and more to do with gaining brownie points. Its become a tick box excecise trying to meet a system unrelated to the real workplace.

 Thanks for this !!!The word "accreditation" has come to symbolise to me, personally, the reason, why I am unable to practice my profession. The result of this has not only  caused massive financial, emotional, psychological to myself, but more importantly, the very people who need to be uplifted are being denied that right. 

 I have found that most clients are  not qualified to make judgements as to the most suitable workshops/programmes for their staff but are very interested in whether or not their employees are able to perform their jobs better AFTER the training than BEFORE. Surely then, the basic rule of supply and demand should apply ?

So, let those of us, who are able to train/facilitate /teach/tutor, do our jobs ! "The proof is in the pudding"!!!

Now this is a valuable discussion, at least in terms of ETD and for those of us who are involved in ETD. Des Squire is right when he claims that the Minister previously stated that not all training needs to be accredited. In my opinion it is only where lifelong learning and the CAT system are involved that one need to stick to accredited learning institutions and registered unit standards and qualifications. If it is specific skills that we need, especially skills that will enable people to be more productive, i.e. add value to a particular industry or organisation then I see no reason why the training needs to be accredited. Such training needs to be contextualised to the environment and articulated to the skills needs of the industry/organisation; accredited unit standards and national qualifications do not always facilitate this. This is probably where emloyers are at fault - they are sometimes more concerned about BBBEE and claiming skills levies than about providing their employees with knowledge and skills that will make a positive difference to the workplace. It is time that employers decide for themselves what their skills needs are and have their employees training in that. This impacts mostly on OD ETD (I would like to call it VET), and therefore the QCTO. Once the QCTO starts operating, they will need to look particularly into this. Emphasising accredited training is often not the way to go, and employers need to decide what they want for their businesses, not government departments. Now this will be a true education revolution if only employers will have the guts and vision to take a stance in their own interests. In case somebody might think that I am canvassing for my institution - Mentornet offers only fully accredited ETD, but this does not mean that I cannot see the merit of offering non-accredited training catering for real skills needs. Dr Hannes Nel, MD Mentornet

I have worked for educational/training institutions and across sectors and Industry programs for the past 20 years and so would consider myself an experienced - what shall I call myself- facilitator, trainer, educator, lecturer, teacher, coach, mentor, assessor, moderator, T+D quality assurer, skills development practitioner/SDF ...... All of these (?) or none of these (?) depending on whose hoops I need/ed to jump through -the various SETA's, SAQA, DoE Training Providers, Private Training Providers, Corporate Companies, Small Businesses, Employers, NGO's, Employees etc. I have served on SGB's, various Industries task teams, committees etc and have led and been part of teams that design and develop qualifications and unit standards and PoE templates, write training material, workbooks and assessor guides ...... etc, etc. I have seen and been part of the continual changes in the Skills Development arena - both in the formal education sector and the workplace T+D sector. In my humble opinion, over the past 10 years this has led to many private providers having to almost abandon or sideline provision of excellent services at the cost of having to fund and concentrate on red tape and administration to jump through all the hoops of the various parties involved. In the process the receivers of the provision of the "formalised" and "accredited" skills training and development, namely previously disadvantaged and other adults, may have become brainwashed - as have their workplace T+D departments and employers. They often are led to believe or assume that the quality of "training and assessment" and the "credits" and "certificates" they receive from the "registered and accredited providers" and ETQA's are superior to that of "non-accredited" training and this in itself will guarantee them better employment opportunities or better skilled workers.

And then there are the adults, mostly from rural and deep rural areas, with varying educational backgrounds and abilities, with whom I have had the privilege to work with over the past two years. They don't ask me to jump through any hoops other than to assist them to expand their knowledge and improve their skills. Why - first to ensure that they can meet their own basic needs, then to enable them to develop into responsible citizens of the country and to eventually contribute to the national economy; whether by becoming employable or by starting their own small businesses. The "non-credit bearing" interactive short course I offer is continually adapted to meet the specific group's needs - often right there during the interactive sessions with input from the attendees, many of whom who have attended the "university of life".

Now here is the sad part - the SETA that funded this relatively "cheap" but highly effective project, declined further funding unless the course was "aligned to unit standards" and "registered" as a "skills program" and was offered by an "accredited" training provider. If this "red tape" route is pursued purely to get funding, I suspect the following would happen: it would cost a substantial amount of money and time and the resulting "skills program" could be a barrier to at least 80% of the current target audience. In addition the cost of offering the program would treble and the "accredited" provider and the "learners" would have to spend a great deal of time and money "gathering sufficient evidence" to prove "competence". In all likelihood they could also lose sight of the actual meaning of the word "competent".

So is it all about FUNDING - a case of who controls the purse and decides what to fund and how to fund it? Are private providers and employers thus obliged to continually jump through the ever changing hoops of all the "formal" role players so that they receive sufficient "funds" for their T+D projects and plans?

"What if" the SETA's and other funders where prepared to (or obliged to?) allocate a proportion (albeit small) of the vast amount of money available, to "non-accredited" training projects judged solely by whether industry and employers, or adult participants themselves, together with experienced, credible and ethical facilitators consider the projects as value-adding. Would this not possibly open up the opportunity for passionate and experienced T+D people? Those who are in the T+D arena to make a difference first, and a decent living second, by using their abilities and talents - those who cannot survive by being regulated to death by the potential "funders"?

In my opinion and from my own experience, it would make a real difference if many more short, affordable, diverse and adaptable programs were funded and offered in cases where "formal courses/qualifications" cannot and do not satisfy the needs of the target audience. Are there any funders out there, who are listening and who maybe, just maybe, are willing to take the risk and change their policies to include funding of "non-accredited" credible programs offered by experienced and ethical facilitators?


Lynda Prinsloo


Thank you Sylvia, Des and all you wonderful thinking, intelligent people who responded to this discussion.  I came onto the site with steam pouring out of my ears, needing to vent my frustrations - only to find that you are all busy doing just that!

We were one of the first companies to be accredited by the then ISETT SETA for our end-user IT courses which were, and still are, mapped to the appropriate unit standards.  Our latest re-accreditation though has resulted in only "provisional accreditation".  On querying this it has been made very clear that only companies who upload assessment and moderation reports can be considered for full accreditation (even though we meet every other requirement, logical, sensible, relevant or not).  The fact that our clients need, as is made very clear by so many of your comments, is for productive, knowledgeable staff, is irrelevant.

The final comment from a Senior Manager was "At the end of the day, we will be de-accrediting all those providers that are not assessing, as this goes against the grain of skills development in the country" - and that is what got the steam going!  - Blind breaucracy at it's most damaging.


Ann Clarke

I really think this discussion need to be broadened to include private examining institutions that existed prior to the SAQA revolution. I am a diplomate of the Institute of Administration and Commerce (IAC) that started operating in 1927 in Cape Town. The institute has many diplomates all over South Africa and in fact, Southern Africa. With the advent of SAQA the institute was advised that it cannot operate in its current form , as an examining body only, but that it needs to establish a training college for which there was no funds at the time. Our CEO at the time liaised on a constant basis with SAQA to no avail. 

Finally, the board had to relent and could not examine any longer. Because the institute could not abandon its accounting members as they had accounting practices, the current board restyled the institute into the Institute for Accounting and Commerce to retain the acronym ''IAC'', I suppose. The diplomates of the other business disciplines has been left in the cold and are not members of the institute any longer. I feel that the advent of SAQA has not been a blessing to us who are diplomates in other business disciplines.

I would like to know how diplomates feel who are travelling with me in the same boat.  


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