How is the development of qualifications and standards in the flooring sector of the flooring industry changing?Lack of formalised training and apprenticeship or mentorship programmes has led to a decline in skills resulting in a skills crisis worldwide. At the 2016/2017 budget vote, Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande, said that despite the challenges we face as a developing country with a history and legacy of national oppression and super-exploitation, South Africa has made enormous strides in building post-school education and training, the likes of which have never been seen before in the country.

“Our system provides diverse and very real opportunities for our people to empower themselves for the future. And we have a clear and powerful vision of how to continue to build this system to serve the needs of individuals, the economy and society. Many challenges, however, still lie ahead. That is why we are currently developing a 15 year plan for the entire system, based on the vision captured in the White Paper on Post-School Education and Training that I released in early 2014 and the National Development Plan,” said Minister Nzimande.

A plan for the flooring industry
Speaking at the AGM of the Flooring Industry Training Association (FITA) in 2016, chairperson of FITA, Tandy Coleman, said the training, skills development and certification landscape in South Africa continues to change and these changes are going to make a huge impact on the quality of workmanship in the flooring sector specifically.

How the development and training bodies fit together

Image compliments of Tandy Coleman, Chairperson of FITA

CETA is the construction training authority and initially it was their request for an industry training body that prompted the formation of FITA. CETA is currently the body to which FITA has to submit all training curriculums for accreditation, but this is set change in the near future. CETA is also the body that accredits training providers and FITA is only permitted to use training providers that have applied to CETA and are accredited by them. FITA can apply to CETA for funding and they have already provided FITA with funding for Learnerships, RPL’s (recognition of prior learning) and for the development of training material.

The Professional Board for the Master Built Environment (PBMBE) is an independent body formed as a result of an MBA North initiative to represent the construction industry. FITA will in future form part of a collection of Industry bodies under the PBMBE that will provide training and accreditation in the construction sector.

FITA is the owner of the curriculum and will appoint an approved training provider such as Sparrow Schools or Tjeka & SAIFTI to carry out the training required. Members of FITA will be either manufacturers, distributors, contractors or fitters who fall under any of the flooring categories. Current members belong to these categories.

“If there is an industry body in any of these categories, it makes sense to have an agreement with them to fall under FITA with regard to training to ensure that all training in the flooring industry is within one body. Thus, SAWFLA (South African Wood, Laminate and Flooring Association) has agreed to be associated with FITA. We support and endorse the training offered by SAWLFA and encourage all existing floor layers to participate in their short skills programmes on offer,” explained Tandy.

Manufacturers who are members of FITA are able to be signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding which stipulates that in order to issue a warranty on your product, the installer must have a certain number and level of accredited fitters on the installation team. This process will become effective as of July 2018.

“FITA offers regulation of industry training skills which allows flooring contractors to enable their fitters to become trained and accredited. New recruits add to a pool of better skilled labour for contractors to recruit from and all of this will lead to flooring contractors having preferred installer status in the industry. Those who do good work with less installation failures or errors will fast become most popular in the industry,” says Tandy before adding that FITA will have a formal register of fitters who will be recognised for their skills, making them employable and giving them earning security.

NQF being replaced by a new modular based qualification system

The updated Flooring Qualifications in association with the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO) and Construction SETA (CETA) will come into effect on 1 March 2018. These qualifications will be governed by QCTO and CETA.

As of 28 February 2018, all NQF level qualifications will fall away and a new modular based qualification system will come into effect. This is built more around a “university type model” where people are able to select their subjects to build a qualification. There will be certain compulsory modules and others can be chosen to make up the required number of modules to complete the course. Additional modules can be taken as short skills courses to further a qualification and achieve a higher certification.

QCTO will be the body responsible for accrediting the qualification and all the content that makes up the various modules for the qualification. Once approved, the qualification will be registered with SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority). CETA is the body that polices and monitor the process of teaching and assessing the qualification.

The Professional Board for the Master Built Environment (PBMBE) has been set up by Dr Ivor Blumenthall to facilitate recognition of expertise and competency of all individuals in the building industry, and will embrace all sectors of the construction industry including flooring. This Board will issue “skills passports” to qualified fitters confirming their area and degree of expertise. In addition, member companies will be “star graded”.

FITA, as the training body for the Flooring Industry, is part of the PBMBE and will facilitate the development of the qualifications and standards in the flooring sector of the building industry. Individuals accredited by FITA will be recognised by the PBMBE. FITA will also apply for professional body status with SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) and will therefore become the recognised body in the Flooring Industry to accredit the qualification. FITA is already in the process of developing some of the material that will form the modules for this qualification.

“Each sector of the flooring industry will need to form a panel of experts that will assist with putting together training material that represents their sector and is approved by their experts as an agreed industry training standard. In some cases, this has already been done. The training modules will belong to FITA and they will be taught by CETA accredited training providers,” explains Tandy.

Recognition of prior learning
The process of recognising prior learning will identify installers’ knowledge and competence levels; match the installer’s skills and experience to specific standards and the associated assessment criteria of a qualification, i.e. National Certificate: Installation of Floor Coverings NQF Level 1; assess the candidate against those standards and credit the candidate for skills, knowledge and experience built up through formal, informal and non-formal learning that occurred during their time in the industry.

“The assessment of an installer’s ability is conducted on site or at one of the accredited training centres. Upon successful completion of their RPL, floor fitters will be awarded a CETA Statement of Achievement and will be placed on the National Register of Artisans,” says Tandy.

The time frame for a typical RPL assessment per person/group is 3 to 5 days for a group of 3-5. Candidates will receive a “Certificate of Achievement” which will entitle them to be registered on the National Register of Artisans. RPLs can only be conducted on flooring installers who have at least three years of flooring installation experience. There are currently 54 established floor fitters who hold the CETA Certificate of Achievement. The qualification is valid indefinitely but FITA reserves the right to withdraw the accreditation should an accredited fitter fail to complete installations to the required standard.

For further information contact FITA on +27 (11) 794 9295 or via email: patty@fitasa.co.za.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.gov.za and www.fitasa.co.za for the information contained in this article.