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N1 – N3 Engineering Studies: Mature Age and Experience Exemptions

This topic contains 1 reply, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Stephen hope 4 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #2626

    Legal provision for access to Engineering Studies N1 – N3 for students who do not meet the Maths and Science entrance requirements

    (Are there any exemptions based on age and on experience?)

    There seems to be quite some variation on what colleges state in terms of entrance requirements for N1 – N3 (requirements range from Grade 9 to Grade 12). The NATED report states that candidates must have maths and physical science (For Engineering Studies). But I am wondering about those instances of students who have been working in the field for many years, but they don’t have Grade 9 / 10 Maths or Science.

    I see that all Colleges state that students must have maths and science, but there seems to be little info about mature age exemptions, and exemptions based on experience.

    Most of our Engineering students come to us with a great deal of work experience – they simply want to do the theoretical component. These students often have been working for many years, yet, for some of them, they never completed maths or science at school. What can we do in these instances?

    I would greatly appreciate any insight into the above.



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  • #2635

    Stephen hope


    Hi Sonia

    I know that if than individual have enough practical experience in the job the SETA’s can give them exemption for the N2. Some of the employees has been working for year within the trade and if there is sufficient evidence that they can carry out the job that is required within the trade why should they be expected to do math and science.  I know that if they want to qualify as an artisan the requirement is grade 9 with experience.  I know other will differ but math and science must be trade related for anyone that has not been afforded the opportunity to gain the full math and science N2. Otherwise what is RPL.

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  • #2634

    Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for your reply.

    We offer the Engineering Studies through Umulusi (and the DHET), so I need to make very sure about entrance requirements. That’s why I was hoping for reference to a specific policy document.

    I agree that we should not bar access to the theoretical component if the student can prove that he has trade related maths and science skills. But I am just not sure what Umalusi’s official decree on this is ..



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  • #2633

    ..The skills-sets required to be a successful engineer are vastly disparate, and correlates closely with the type of engineer you want to be – some engineering disciplines, e.g., say, designing better electrical motors, fan units, etc., require a high level of mathematical knowledge because you are working with a vast array of variables, where mathematical calculus comes into play, however, no science knowledge is required.
    But, say, an engineer that fault-finds on electrical control systems, motor control centres, relay-logic, requires no maths, no science, but a lot of hands-on site experience.
    The courses & curricula taught at standard Unis and FETs are “generic“; hence, they throw in maths and science as a MUST.
    I’ve gone through the apprenticeship and FET system and have worked as an engineer for 30 years, here and overseas – if I used 5% of what I was taught theoretically, over a span of 30 years, it’s a lot.
    On my return from overseas 5 years ago, I discovered that, with very little effective change, the same theory is being taught today as was in 1985.
    I guess curricula are handed down from generation to generation of teachers over the years, with very little change ?
    In a nutshell, lecturers, with all due respect, are academics – once a lecturer completes the engineering course and then the necessary teaching course/s, he/she starts teaching – no time has been spent in the field – an engineer who has been in the field for 10 years + is on R 500 to R 1 000 / hour – why would they abandon that and start teaching ?
    Therefore, because “hands-on” engineers are not going into teaching, no knowledge transfer takes place to advice what theoretical training, exactly, one needs.
    Besides which, lecturers HAVE to simply teach what the department tells them to teach.
    Coupled with that, industry has traditionally NOT really been engaged by the teaching establishments, in order for lecturers to understand market trends. (Needs analyses, WHAT needs analyses ?!?).
    There are some models I’ve seen overseas that are hitting the spot; sadly tho’, the world at large, with all the big guns at their disposal and a few more millennia (versus us) to get it right, still haven’t; the failures in the system that cripples the young South Africa engineers I’ve mentored are the same failures I encountered in the young engineers graduating from some of the most prominent Unis in the world.
    In fact, the vast bulk of our graduates can’t even get work (Be afraid….. be VERY afraid…..INDUSTRY KNOWS).
    Solution ? – SCRAP maths (my strongest subject, by the way) and science from all but the very few engineering disciplines where highly-specialised design and research work is required – in any case, here, companies have their own in-house training anyway because it is such a specialised field.
    By scrapping most of the (absolutely useless) theory we are crippling our student with (the ones who CAN actually pass, so difficult is it), we make a lot of room for adding more practically-oriented courses that the engineer WILL need in the field.
    But for this to happen, you need to harness the disparate skill-sets of a variety of FIELD-TESTED engineers, and feed it into the teaching systems; get a strong engineering-consultant team together who have worked in the field for 3 to 4 decades (EACH), and throw them in together with the lecturers for a good-ol’ brainstorming session…but first of all, the powers that be need to understand where the problem lies – and THAT means scrapping the EGO outright, and it’s love-child, ARROGANCE … an easy task ??….uhmmm, weeellllll…

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  • #2632

    As a lecturer of Engineering students in N1 to N6 for many years I find it strange that people still think one can become a tradesman without having the basics of maths and science. The maths and science taught at the TVET colleges is not rocket science and is applied to the knowledge they need to do their trades.

    A person who does not have that level of maths and science will always be an assistant to those who do have the qualifications, including the maths and science. The extent of comprehension and common sence one applies to the trades will depend on the understanding of the underlying theory, maths and science.

    Experience cannot teach one the maths and science you need. This is something that TVET Colleges should offer after hours so that potential apprentices can catch up and do their trades.

    Marietta van Rooyen

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  • #2631

    Wessel PIETERS

    People without the math and science to get into N1-n3 do not belong in engineering.  They are lowering the standrds of work does not matter how much “experience” they have.

    Understand Experience as “applied knowledge in the workplace”.

    You cannot get Experience unless you have the Knowledge first.

    Like do you want a medical doctor to operate on you without medical knowledge?

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  • #2630

    Wessel PIETERS

    Somehow I do not believe the work mixalis takoulas did has anything to do with Engineering.

    It seems he had a job where he did not do any specifications and calculations and evaluations of feasibility studies. That is an Engineers job and for that a professional registration is required.

    Coming from an FET he did not work as an Engineer but mostly it seems as a Technician or a Senior artisan.

    About the course content: Ohms Law did not change, why should the course content change?  Matrix algebra is essential for motor and circuit analysis (say for fault level calculations or heat and  mass balance or water balance or energy balance for heat exchanger performance determinations, and so I can go on).  I employ engineers and those without maths simply do not have the cognitive ability to work in 3-D and resolve the simple engineering problems as indicated.

    So anyone who wants to do away with maths and science in Engineering is practicing his “Engineering” not on the same planet I am working in.  In fact I want to suggest that the maths is somewhat weak in response to the requirements.  I also worked in Germany and in Russia and in Africa.  Engineering in Africa is the same as in Europe – the laws remains the same.

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  • #2629

    Hi there,

    I am certainly not advocating a ‘lowering of the standards’. I was just hoping for some guidance on what the official policies are regarding the entrance criteria.

    As I mentioned earlier, our experience is that most of our students are already employed in their trades. Some of these students (for a variety of reasons) did not successfully complete Grade 9 / 10. Much of their knowledge is experiential. These students are keen to have official endorsement of their knowledge and skills – hence their desire for a recognised qualification.

    I don’t think that anybody can reasonably suggest that Maths and Science are not critical components within the engineering field.

    However, we do need to acknowledge the reality that many of our country’s adult population never obtained a Matric certificate (or even successfully completed Grade 10). Are we really comfortable suggesting that such students be completely barred from furthering their studies?

    As role players in the education arena, we all share a responsibility to cater to and assist these kinds of students.

    An earlier comment on this thread referred to the need for TVET Colleges to offer additional teaching / bridging courses so that apprentices have an opportunity to do their trades. I completely agree with this.

    However, developing or sourcing a bridging course that covers at least 3 years of school maths / science is very challenging. These challenges are exacerbated by the scarcity of good quality study material / courses available in the students’ mother tongue(s).

    As educators, we have a mandate to offer education that is accessible and that has real-world value. And this, undoubtably, opens up all sorts of cans of worms …

    Thanks to everybody thus far for their input,


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  • #2628

    Stephen hope

    Hi Sonia

    Hi Sonia

    If you have a look at the requirements that the SETA  has for a trade test (fitter and Turner) which I am sure that they must of got from an policy document. Merseta Document (Trade Test Application Form Artisan RPL. {LPM-FM-009). I am Sure someone at the Merseta could refer you to a policy document. 



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  • #2627

    Wessel PIETERS

    Sonia.  I have sympathy for your position but one cannot get good technical people without a good education.  It is not your obligation to “help” them.  It is not helping; it helps them fail.  It is their obligation to procure a good education and or get a better education system.  We have a democratic systems that is not put to work.  That is not your problem.

    Practically, an “electrician” with many years of experience that cannot wire a DB to 10142 regulations is not an electrician.  He is a toolbox carrier.

    A Plumber that puts galvanised sockets on a copper pipe is not  plumber.  He has zero metallurgical knowledge and knows nothing about “best practice”. This is the standard we are dealing with now.  It is not a standard.  It is pure incompetence.

    In the first instance one needs to do some simple calculations and needs to read tables (and understand them because some discretion must be used BASED on a theoretical understanding) & in the case of the Plumbing job Knowledge of metallurgy is to be used.  The same applies to welders and coded welders working and welding different materials with the correct welding stick.  Or “solder” copper pipe when the temperatures approaches 100deg C.

    In a bush industry we do not need competence.  We drink from rivers and use the veld and our life expectancy is 40 years like in Europe in 1700 and now in Zimbabwe.

    In the world that the Constitution legislate, we need working electricity and running clean water.  Now think of Eskom and ask the question if Engineers ran the place instead of ANC politicians, there will be new power stations and maintenance will be a top priority.  The Phalihadi dam in Lesotho for ZAR7B is being build in the wrong place and JNB will be without water in 10 – 15 years.  The culture in SA is not functional excellence anymore, but soft to “accommodate” incompetence and be promoted on “potential”.  Do not succumb to the slogan of social acceptance and coherency only, but insist on functional excellence.  It starts at school and never ends.

    The Germans succeeds because of functional excellence and not of because of social policies.  The Greeks and now the people of Venezuela  fails as a nation because of misguided policies be at different disciplines, e g. Greeks: National Bookkeeping and governance and Venezuela beliefs wealth is created by socialism. The hole planet is subjected to the rules of good governance, the cost of capital and capitalism. It does not matter from where you originate and what your culture is or what policy you prefer. In Africa we have a vast list of failures mostly to do with the Black African understanding of the world they found themselves in.  We must lead in SA and beware not to become a supporter of a value system that fails consistently.

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