NLRD Incomplete: Are Training Service Providers to blame? 15

Who – or what – is responsible if the NLRD is not accurate or complete? And does it really matter? Surely the training service providers who have trained and assessed the learners as competent, are required to upload the information on competent learners? At the ISETT Seta Roadshow in Cape Town last week, ETQA Senior Manager Charlton Piliso, noted the failure of training service providers to upload learner information to the Seta.

Skills-universe members have identified that the NLRD – the National Learner Records Database is not complete. But the NLRD requires human intervention to ensure that it is accurately updated.

To resolve the various problems related to quality management systems (QMS), ISETT Seta have now implemented an online process for accreditation of training service providers, and have embarked on an “update” project to capture past records.

One of the problems identified is the use of consultants to develop a QMS for the training service provider. At varying costs, the consultant develops a superb QMS, which is then submitted to the Seta and the training provider is accredited. However, once accredited, the training provider either does not understand – or ignores – the QMS.

In the online accreditation system, documents will be uploaded directly – avoiding misfiling or loss of hardcopy documents. In addition, the ISETT Seta will make generic QMS policy documents available on line: the training provider will be required to sign an undertaking that they understand the contents of the QMS documents and will comply with all requirements. Failure to do so will cause the training provider to lose their accreditation.

Will the new ISETT Seta system improve matters? Will other Setas follow suit and standardise their requirements? If training service providers are required to develop different QMSs for each Seta matters could become worse not better.

Will this improve NLRD accuracy? There are a number of steps in the uploading of information: training needs to be conducted by an accredited provider, who uploads the completed results to the Seta, who then in turn upload the information into the NLRD. However, the Seta can only track learners and follow up on results if the training provider registers the learners with the Seta at the start of the learning programme.

What is the purpose of the NLRD and how important is it to our world of skills development? The site states that:

“the main purpose of the NLRD is to serve learners, both at educational organisations and in the workplace, by holding records of all their qualifications and unit standard achievements, thus enabling them to build on, and employers to verify, training achievements and results. As a result, the NLRD is one of the main pillars of the NQF.”

This seems to imply that everyone would be able to access the system directly, including: learners, employers, recruitment consultants, and so on. As an HR practitioner, it would be wonderful to be able to access and verify qualifications of employees and of applicants.

The NQF and NLRD are the responsibility of the SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority). On 1 November 2009, Minister Nzimande assumed responsibility for the new Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which includes the qualification and quality councils: SAQA, the CHE (Council for Higher Education), and on the 23 February 2010 we are expecting the announcement of the QCTO (Quality Council for Trades and Occupations), which will also be responsible for promoting the objectives of the NQF. (Section 26H(e) Skills Development Act).

As the stated aim of the NLRD is to “serve learners”, and it does seem that a functioning NLRD would greatly enhance many HR processes, then this appears to be a further important area of “service delivery” that needs to be addressed – one more item to add to the new minister’s “area needing attention” list.

Prepared by sylvia hammond


16 February 2010

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15 thoughts on “NLRD Incomplete: Are Training Service Providers to blame?

  • Des Squire

    I have discovered that I am still not registered on the NLRD for a moderator course undertaken in 2005. Since then I have been registered with various SETAS as a constituent moderator based on verifiable proof submitted in 2005/2006. The proof submitted met the requirements of the SETA at the time. 

    ETDP SETA now say I am not qualified as my records do not appear on the NLRD.

    Are there any providers who have similar outstanding learner records not captured on the NLRD for the same period? Are there providers who had to re assess learners because learner information had not been captured during that period or subsequent to that. Despite my best efforts in making contact with SAQA and the QCTO no one seems to want to rectify an administrative error and require proof of completion of a POE and submission of records by the provider some 11 years later.

    I am interested in comments from providers who had similar problems during this period where learner records were not, and possible still have not been, captured. Feel free to contact me off line if you feel this is necessary.        

  • Anton Booyse

    My topic:          Data tells a story

     End piece

    From previous section.

    Service Provider B submitted data on behalf of Seta Z in 2011 as part of the complete data load pertaining learner achievement of a registered qualification. The data submitted reflects that the date of achievement by the learner is later than the accreditation end date of the provider where the learner achieved the ualification. In some cases, learners achieved the qualification up to 5 years after the provider accreditation expired.

    The SETA/ETQA data files being submitted bi-annually to the NLRD are, in general, prepared and supplied by a service provider on behalf of the client (ETQA or SETA).

    The results emanating from our analysis of the data amazes me each time we perform this exercise. A worrying factor though, is that both the SETA and NLRD are dependent on a service provider and must trust and believe
    that the service provider makes use of an “Automated, Integrated MIS system” that is perceived to perform wonders.

    It is sad to say, though, that it appears that this is not the case and SETA’s are prone to base their service provider selection on the big corporate reputation and historical information, only to establish much later that they are at serious risk working with and submitting inaccurate data which, in turn, impacts their decision-making processes.

    It blows my mind that even today we still sit with issues that should have been addressed during the first NSDS cycle. (First 5 years of the existence of NLRD)

    What I can say is that RemoteNet will continue to assess and report on issues identified. Failing to do so will be a complete disservice to the learners, the SETAs we serve, SAQA and any other authority relying on the integrity of the data lying within our MIS and “mined” for reporting purposes.

  • Anton Booyse

    My topic:          Data tells a story

     Continue from previous section (here is the rest of the story)

    Was there QC before this is supplied? How does such data end up at the NLRD? (In fact, how does the NLRD system accept such inaccurate information?)

    In 2011, Service Provider B submitted data on behalf of SETA Y. As part of the complete data load, learner achievement of qualifications achieved against a registered qualification of the 10 773 learners submitted for
    qualification achievement only 236 learners are reflected as having actually achieved a registered qualification whilst the balance are as enrolled.

    We are now entering the 3rdcycle of NSDS (NSDSIII). This data indicates that, since the inception of SETA’s, only 236 learners have actually achieved a qualification. This, in turn, represents a successful achievement rate of 2.19% on a national level over a period of 10 years. I would not want to be the CEO and/or a board member of SETA Y as this figure is clearly indicative of the performance and success of the SETA in servicing its members and learners.

    Again, in 2011, Service Provider B submitted data on behalf of SETA Y. As part of the complete data load of learners having achieved/completed a registered qualification, only 245 learners (out of a total of 2 907 submitted for learnership achievement/completion) are reflected as having actually achieved a registered learnership – the balance are reflected as enrolled.

    As stated previously, we are now in the 3rd cycle of the NSDS (NSDSIII).and this data indicates that only 245 learners have completed a learnership over the last 10 years (i.e. since the inception of SETA’s).

    Service Provider B (servicing SETA Y and Seta Z), as part of the complete data load, submitted data on behalf of both SETAs in 2011 relating to learner achievement of unit standards achieved against a registered unit standard, The typical “Wors Mashien” scenario.

    SetaY– Learner assessment at one provider :

    • Our assessment of the data indicates that the provider completed the assessment of 885 individual unit
      standard achievements in one day.  If we consider that the set benchmark is to assess 15 unit standards per day (which in my opinion is still an unrealistic and misleading figure) a total of 59 learners have been
      declared competent at one training provider on one day in this instance. Again, 2 days later, the
      same provider was able to assess a further 4 194 unit standard achievements. Using the same considerations as in 1 above a total of 279 learners have declared competent at one provider in one day. (i.e. A total of 338 over a two day period at one provider).

    Seta Z– Learner assessment at a different provider in a different industry:

    • The submission reflects that 1 423 assessments of individual unit standard achievements were completed in a single day (representing +/- 95  learners), another 1 725 the following day (+/-115 learners), a further  3 650 four days later (+/- 243 learners) and 1 605 one day after that (+/- 107 learners) A total of +/- 560 learners (or, a total of 8 403 individual unit standard assessments) at one provider over the course of 5 days?

    How accurate is this? Have true skills been assessed? What does this really say about the assessment principles and rules the NQF aspires to uphold?

    Service Provider B submitted data on behalf of Seta Z in 2011 as part of the complete data load pertaining learner achievement of a registered qualification. The data submitted reflects that the date of achievement by the learner is later than the accreditation end date of the provider where the learner achieved the qualification. In some cases, learners achieved the qualification up to 5

  • Anton Booyse

    My topic:             Data tells a story


    I am a true believer in HRD (Human Resources Development) and the “What and Where” it will lead this country to, in which the NLRD has been and will, I believe, always play a crucial role in ensuring us getting


    The NLRD allows us to attain the BIG picture. And I mean BIG!

    It is the foundation upon which strategist’s feed on. Used correctly, the NLRD tells us whether we, as a country, have achieved our goals and what to focus on in driving our economy.  

    It is the end result between what needs to be done and what has been done as far as skills development.


    Its magic lies in its ability to supply factual information on actual achievements against identified critical and scarce skills required in our country.

    Used correctly, the NLRD becomes our county’s compass showing us true north wherever we are.


    Yet if the information feeding the NLRD is questionable, we will end up making decisions that ultimately and disastrously lead to incorrect decision making.

    Colleagues, I have only recently joined this forum and already feel a bit hot under the collar reading the comments and concerns raised as I fully support the comments.

    I am especially grateful for the comments from Mr. Joe
    Samuel and just hope it is not too late to comment on this issue.  However here is my input.

    As one of the service providers for SETA MIS systems, I seriously doubted that the data received by the NLRD is, firstly, in fact correct and, secondly, correctly represents what is happening on the ground.

    As part of the RemoteNet team, I have been involved, on numerous occasions, with the migration of SETA data from a previous service provider onto the RemoteNet SETA-MIS system.

    In doing so, as a standard procedure, we assess the data submissions supplied to the NLRD from the
    ETQA unit.  It is essential that an assessment of the data being migrated from a legacy system into the new system is performed to ensure the take on date is in fact compliant in terms of the minimum data set requirements. In addition this assessment is carried out to establish whether the data also passes legislative and policy requirements in its representation of business and what happened on ground level.


    The following are some of the more severe and serious issues we have detected whilst conducting our data assessment that I would like share in the hope that the reader is more enlightened on the challenges at hand and will, hopefully spearhead the implementation of adequate QC (Quality Control) measurements and tools to minimise potential risks associated with inaccurate data submissions ending up within the NLRD.

    Assessment of Data loaded on NLRD:


    In 2009, Service Provider A submitted data on behalf of Seta X.

    1. Two distinct concerns were identified:
    • As part of the complete data load, learner achievement of qualifications achieved against a registered
      qualification, 90% of those learners reported to have achieved (completed) the qualification are stated as enrolled against the individual unit standards that lead to the full qualification.  (7473
      unit standard records are affected)
    • Learner achievement for unit standard showing a total of 11 954 unit standard records. The most recent date stamp associated with each record (at the time of performing the data analysis late in 2009) lists as late 2006. This indicates that SETA X did not have any new learner unit standard take on as from January 2007 onwards.

    Surely the above is not possible, yet the data reflect something els

  • Joe Samuels

    I think it is an excellent idea if we can get accurate feedbck on the gaps that exists on the NLRD so that we can follow up with the individual ETQAs concerned.

  • Moustafa Mohamed Moustafa wahba

    Dear Sylvia
    I agree with Des Squire that the way you are discussing TVET topics in your forum could lead to grave concern from other parties / bodies.

    As we are doing in the UNESCO-UNEVOC e-Forum, the problems you raised related to South Africa should be categorized under clear TVET topics and discussed by the forum TVET professionals. As I concluded from your comments, the problems you mentioned should be classified into the following TVET Challenges and Priorities in South Africa:

    1. TVET Policies and Strategies
    2. Quality & Demand Based Continuing TVET (Lifelong learning) for Sustainable Development SD
    3. Strategic Management of TVET Institutions
    4. Training Providers (Schools, colleges, universities, public training institutions, in-company and inter-company VET Centres, private training companies, employer’s associations, chambers of commerce, sector bodies, trade unions and other training providers, like NGOs)
    5. Decentralized Enterprise – TVET Provider Partnerships ETPs
    6. Formal, Informal & Non-formal TVET & Validation
    7. Recognition of Prior Learning RPL
    8. Stakeholders for the TVET System
    9. Fitness to Purpose of TVET System
    10. Basic Curriculum Training (Instructor Lead Training ILT / Class Based Training / off-the-Job Training) and Practical training (Work Based Training / In-service Training / On-the-Job Training OJT) for Workers / Trainees / Students
    11. Training Needs Analysis (Assessment) TNA
    12. Quality Assurance Management of TVET
    13. Assessment, Verification & Accreditation Procedures
    14. Evaluation of Assessment Results & Specific Gaps Elimination Programme SGEP
    15. Trainers / Instructors / Teachers, Assessors, Observers and Verifiers (Knowledge / Skills / Experience Profiles, Roles & Responsibilities), Competency and Evidence Based Training CEBT, Competency Assurance Management Systems CAMS, Competence Based Occupational Standards, Scales of Competency Standards (Levels), Occupational Areas, Occupational / Job Analysis & Components of Competence Based Occupational Standards
    16. Occupational Competencies Approach to Education & Training and Impact to Productivity & Competency Development Frameworks CFDs
    17. National Vocational Qualifications, Occupational Standards, Occupational Certification and Licensing
    18. Competency Assurance Management Systems CAMS versus ISO Norms of Standards
    19. Management Information Systems MIS, Knowledge Management System KMS as applied to National VET Projects & National Learner Records Database NLRD
    20. Training & Assessment Matrix Process – Process Flow Chart

    Dear Sylvia

    If you are going to discuss TVET problems with reference to the above well-known topics, clear recommendations and solutions could be concluded.

    I would also appreciate receiving comments from our forum member Ashwell Glasson on the above.

    Best regards from Egypt.

    Eng. Moustafa Wahba

    Competency Assurance & TVET Consultant

  • Celestine Williams

    I have found that the “sticky point” is when a. the provider is offering a learning programme that the SETA’s ETQA has not endorsed nor funded) & that the SETA then does not recognize the learner’s achievements and that b. the administrators working with the provider are not properly trained to use the PLRD nor to upload the informration and also that c. the waiting periods for a statement of results and SETA endorsed certificates are way too long. Some SETAs are getting much better and quicker at it, not all the SETAs are at fault.

  • Moloko Mothemela

    I fully agree that our NLRD is not up to scratch but we cannot blame the Seta/ETQA’s responsible for uploading the information. Some information is so oudated without any trace. The institutions should have gathered the information so that when the ETQA’s request such information they make it available to them. it is such a shame that after a hard work people annot find their hardworks. Check under the CHE website about how many NRLD were loaded then you will find a clear answer.

    First learner records loaded into the Higher Education Quality Committee Information System (HEQCIS)
    The first learner records, from a private higher education institution, Christ Baptist Church Seminary, were loaded into the HEQCIS database on Friday the 10th April 2009. This means that the HEQCIS system, which will collect information about enrolments and qualifications awarded at private higher education institutions is now fully operational.

    The HEQCIS system has been developed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), in conjunction with Praxis Computing, on behalf of the Council on Higher Education (CHE). When it is fully populated, the HEQCIS system will provide the CHE with accurate information about the learners enrolled in private higher education institutions and the qualifications awarded. For institutions, the benefits of contributing to the system are that qualification achievements will be added to the National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD) at SAQA and their students will be able to have their qualifications independently verified.

  • Russell Healey McDiarmid

    Our experience is that once we have uploaded learner results, our SETA (the ETDP SETA) endorses the results and issues a Statement of Results. We then provide our learners with a Certificate of Competency and an ETDP Statement of Results. Our understanding is that the ETDP SETA then uploads the results to the NLRD.

    To verifiy our results as a Provider, the ETDP conduct external verification and open a 6 month window provided that they are satisfied we meet relevant criteria. To date these verifications have proved very thorough and beneficial.

    SAQA is surely responsible for monitoring and verifying the information submitted by ETQAs to the NLRD when they conduct their own QA audits. There should be an audit trail once SETAs have endorsed learner results?

  • Andrew Friedemann

    Also to quote Nonhlanhla at SAQA when I asked to check my wifes credits… “Please note that individual verifications should be requested by the individual themselves. Therefore please ask your wife to submit the request herself. If she is not able to, for whatever reason, then you need to state the reason in the e-mail, and that you have her permission to request the verification on her behalf.”

    How does this help employers to check up on prospective employees?

  • Andrew Friedemann

    I checked my credits with the NLRD and found ALL from the THETA Seta missing, SAQA says I must check witht eh training provider which I have and confirmed with THETA that all credits are on their database correctly captured, so the problem is not with the training provider but with THETA who obviously has not sent through teh data to SAQA, or some other gremlin has crept in.

    To quote Nonhlanhla Dlamini at SAQA: “Please contact the training provider concerned and/or with the relevant SETA/ETQA to if had they sent your data to the NLRD as the flow of information to the NLRD is as follows: Training providers send data on learner enrolments and achievements to their ETQAs, and in turn, the ETQAs send this data to us for loading into the NLRD.”

  • Lynel Farrell

    I would love to hear the solution. The amount of learners loaded with the incorrect information or very little information is shocking. We try and add value by adding information and correcting mistakes made by “who knows”. It is frustrating correcting information when you only want to load unit standards or skills programmes. Instead of taking a minute to upload results you now have to correct the information aswell. If only by some miracle, the data base could be cleaned up ……………………..

  • Des Squire

    I have made so many comments already on the forum discussion on this topic I fear I will be repeating myself. I have just (5 minutes ago) had a call from SAQA who have expressed grave concern regarding the issue. It is a problem stuck somewhere between the provider and the SETA. The problem I have been assured will be raised for urgent attention.