The Skills Levy and the NQF: not all learning is ?NQF-able?

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A simple guide to the NQF maze

How do companies ensure that they qualify for SETA grants from their Skills Levy contributions?

Can companies include only NQF-aligned programmes in their Workplace Skills Plans?

Does all learning have to be aligned to unit standards and is training that is not aligned irrelevant?

These are some of the questions that employers ask when planning the training and development of their employees, because they want to ensure that they meet all the SETA requirements relating to the Workplace Skills Plans and the Skills Levy. The purpose of this article is to provide answers to some of the questions most frequently asked about NQF alignment, the Skills Levy and Workplace Skills Plans, and to address some of the common misconceptions about this system.

First, some background to explain the context.

The National Qualifications Framework (NQF)

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) registers unit standards and qualifications that specify the outcomes, which serve as national standards in respect of learning achievements.

The outcomes describe what learners will know, understand and be able to demonstrate at the end of a learning programme. Outcomes should be unambiguously stated and must be observable and measurable. The purpose of registering the outcomes (together with assessment criteria) is to ensure the consistent demonstration of competence by every learner who has been awarded the unit standard/qualification, irrespective of how or where the learning occurred.

So, for example, all learners who have been assessed as competent against unit standard number 12883, "Evaluate companies based on their financial statements?, will be able to demonstrate competence in the following specific outcomes of that unit standard:

  • Construct the four basic financial statements
  • Identify factors affecting the sustainability of economic entities
  • Analyse the firm to establish its financial viability.

    SAQA will then record these results on the National Learners? Records Database (NLRD), and all learners who have achieved this unit standard will be awarded 15 credits on NQF level 6.

    The number of credits for a learning programme is specified in the registered unit standard/qualification. Where there are no registered unit standards, training providers generally determine the credit value of a programme on the basis of equivalent unit standards or the notional hours of a learning programme (1 credit represents 10 notional hours of learning).

    Quality assurance processes

    SAQA established Education and Training Quality Assurance bodies (ETQAs) to quality assure and accredit training providers that offer learning programmes leading towards registered unit standards/qualifications. The main purpose of these bodies is to ensure that quality learning takes place and that there is consistency in the achievement of the national standards registered by SAQA.

    The ETQAs of the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are mainly responsible for quality assuring short courses up to NQF level 5. Umalusi is the ETQA for general and further education qualifications (NQF levels 1 to 4), and the Higher Education Quality Committee of the Council on Higher Education (HEQC of the CHE) is the ETQA for qualifications above NQF 5. There are numerous other ETQAs, such as the South African Nursing Council, the SA Board of Personnel Practice and the SA Institute for Chartered Accountants.

    Workplace Skills Plans (WSPs)

    The Skills Development legislation requires employers to pay 1 percent of their payroll as a Skills Levy to the SETAs. Employers qualify for SETA grants from their levy contributions if they meet certain requirements, such as submitting a WSP - which describes the training plan for the year - and an Annual Training Report (ATR) - which records the training conducted in that year.

    The SETAs encourage employers to offer training that enables their employees to obtain credits on the NQF, and therefore to record details of the unit standards/qualifications that programmes are designed to achieve in their WSPs. The SETAs also encourage employers to use accredited training providers who have met the ETQA requirements in respect of quality assurance systems.

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