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  • Nigel Shipston

    Hi Lance,

    Couldn’t agree with you more, although there a number of instances where regulatory compliance requires “re-certification”.

    In terms of the Driven Machinery Regulations, it has always been a requirement that Operators must be re-certified every 2 years as the DoL established statistics that indicated this was a suitable period to address retraining before skills degraded to unsafe practices.  In terms of the Road Traffic Regulations and the incorporated SANS standards, drivers conveying dangerous goods by road must be retrained every year.  And yes, there are retraining periods applicable to First Aid training.

    However, these retraining periods are legislated.  What is common is for these “validity dates” to be applied to other areas where no such legislative requirements are in place.  I can think of Construction plant operators who are not part of the Driven Machinery Regulations, but rather the Construction Regulations. There is no such legislated/regulated retraining or re-certification applicable to these Operators in terms of the Construction Regulations, yet most providers incorrectly apply the 2 year Lifting Machine re-certification policy to these operators as well.

    Unfortunately, this has become something of an accepted practice over the years, which obviously training providers have been reluctant to rectify.  Essentially it is an unfair practice, particularly for Operators and Employers, that Certificates are issued with validity dates.  SAQA has always held that a qualification is for life, therefore being found competent against a unit standard/Qualification is not subject to a “validity date”.  I always ask the question as to whether a competent Assessor/Moderator would be happy to receive a certificate on which has been randomly applied a “validity date”?

    I have often had this conversation with training providers, some of whom are large and “reputable”, certainly not fly by night’s.  Their immediate response is that it will effect their business.  My response is that the Learner is the focus of OBET and the NQF, NOT the training provider.  There is a marked reluctance to bring these matters to the attention of their customers, as training providers have used this method to ensure future business, whether wittingly or unwittingly.  If there was a name and shame portion to this, I believe you would be a little disturbed at the training providers that I know of that perpetuate these practices, despite having advised them otherwise.

    I have long waited for someone to bring this matter to the fore. It was only a matter of time, and I have always maintained that when it does come to light, training providers who carry out these practices will lose considerable credibility.  Profit before ethics and principles?

    I must ad here, that the Code of Practice for Lifting Machine Operators (NCOP) has taken this issue into consideration, in that an Operator should only receive one Certificate at the time of being found Competent against a unit standard, and that certificate CARRIES NO VALIDITY DATE!  The Operator is issued an Operator Carry Card on which the validity date appears, and any further retraining is subject to the issue of an updated Carry Card only.

    Unfortunately, some employers have also used this “validity date’ for retaining staff.  They encourage Training Providers to apply validity dates to Certificates issued, in the belief that because the company is paying for the training, they have the right to limit the Learners prospects for alternative employment.  They hold on to original Certificates, and subject to the expiry of the “validity date” on the Certificate ensure that this training cannot be carried to other prospective employers.  And in order to retain “business” , training providers comply!

    Sad, but true!  There are not enough people in either the training industry or without, who have the correct knowledge of these procedures, or in fact implement them.  In many instances however, there is knowledge of the unethical practices being carried out, but decisions are made to perpetuate these practices in favour of “strengthening” a business.

    There is absolutely no problem should an employer have an internal policy regarding re-training of staff in terms of their safety requirements.  It is not however acceptable to expect a Training Provider to implement this policy by means of applying unnecessary validity dates to their certificates.  It is way past time that Training Providers step up and take their rightful place, by advising their customers of correct and appropriate processes, not the customer dictating how they want things done.  There are certainly instances where custom training can be effectively applied, but it must be done within the acceptable principles of training and assessment.

    It is a sad indictment of our training industry that few if any training providers can or will offer appropriate and correct guidance to customers/employers.  That is their core focus, unlike the customer/employer, and is a little like the tail wagging the dog.  Or is it a little like a bunch of cheap prostitutes bending to the will of their customers?

    So yes Lance, you have hit a vulnerable point, but believe me, it is not the “fly by nights” that have created this, it is the big business “reputable” companies that are probably mostly to blame.

    Just by the way though, there are certain industries, such as working at heights, where you have the Institute for Work at Heights Professional Body, a voluntary body established and registered with SAQA, where there is a Continuous Professional Development requirement in terms of operating as a member of a Professional Body.  In this case there are 3 year validity dates relating to Work at Heights operators/ practitioners, which is quite acceptable in terms of professionalising an industry and offering credibility and reliability.  This is not a regulatory requirement, but certainly one could assume a certain amount of security in retaining the services of a provider willing to operate within the constraints of an industry established body.

    Okay, had my say!

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