Posted on: October 11, 2010 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Professional bodies and designations would have to follow new Saqa rules, which are published for public comment before 15 October 2010.

The new policy would be relevant to all professions, including existing and intended registration bodies, potential safety, occupational health, environment, quality, SHEQ, or construction safety practitioner registration schemes.

Policy and criteria for recognising professional bodies, and registering professional designations, under the NQF Act of 2008, was published by the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa), on 1 September 2010.

The public may comment via professionalbody@saqa.org.za or fax 012 431 5144, by noon on 15 October 2010. The policy was developed by a Professional Body Reference Group in June to August 2010, for public consultation.

Recognition of professional bodies, and registration of professional designations on the NQF, will start only after the consultation process.

The policy and criteria apply to all professional bodies in South Africa, including three or four construction safety registration schemes currently promoting their services under threat of enforced registration by a disputed definition in a Construction Regulations amendment draft that drew wide condemnation.

Saqa rules registration bodies

Saqa is mandated to recognise statutory and non statutory professional bodies for purposes of the National Qualifications Framework Act, 67 of 2008, and to rule on how professional designations are registered on the NQF.

NQF is a comprehensive system, approved by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, for classification, registration, publication and articulation of quality assured national qualifications.

NQF was established under the SAQA Act, 58 of 1995, and continues under the NQF Act, effective on 1 June 2009.

Saqa oversees implementation of the NQF as a system of communication, coordination, and collaboration among education, training, development, and work.

NQF contains three qualifications sub frameworks, each overseen by a quality council:
1 Higher Education, under Council on Higher Education
2 General and Further Education and Training (FET), under Umalusi
3 Occupational, under Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, QCTQ

Saqa rules professional titles

The new policy draft may overrule a stray phrase in a definition in the current Construction Regulations amendment draft, that requires construction safety practitioners to be ‘registered with a body which is registered by Sanas’. Instead, NQF Act sections 28, 29, 30 and 31 read with paragraphs 13(1)(i)(i), 13(1)(i)(ii) and 13(1)(l), “notwithstanding provisions of any other Act”, a statutory or non-statutory professional body shall:

* Co-operate with relevant quality council(s) in respect of qualifications and quality assurance in its occupational field.
* Apply to Saqa as a professional body in terms of the NQF Act.
* Apply to Saqa to register a professional designation on the NQF.

Professional bodies policy

A body constituted to represent or regulate a recognised community of expert practitioners, shall be recognised by Saqa on fulfilment of certain criteria;

* No proliferation of professional bodies in the same sector, allowing only healthy competition and freedom of association.
* No legal impediment to the operation of a second or subsequent body is allowed.
* Outcome of broad consultation in the community of practice, and wider society.
* Representation of at least one third of affiliated members in a community of practice.
* Distinct from other bodies in the community of practice.

Saqa functions in registration

Saqa functions in ruling registration bodies are to;
* Publish for comment any intention to recognise a professional body, in the Government Gazette for 30 days to solicit objections.
* Monitor recognised professional bodies for purposes of the NQF Act.
* Charge professional bodies for expenditure due to delays and lack of compliance.

International professional association data

Professional bodies associated or affiliated with international awarding bodies must meet South African NQF Act requirements, including data requirements.

Recognised professional bodies would;
* Be recognised for five years, renewable for five year periods.
* Register professional designations on the NQF.
* Provide Saqa with validated data compatible with the National Learners’ Records Database, NLRD, at least twice per year.

Registration status removal

SAQA may remove recognition status from a professional body for non compliance, or for being defunct. Practitioners registered by the relevant designation would be affected.

Professional bodies criteria

Professional registration and designation bodies shall;
* Protect interests and professional status of members.
* Protect public interest and risk in relevant services.
* Show evidence of social responsibility and advancing NQF objectives.
* Be legally constituted entities
* Maintain required human and financial resources to undertake its functions
* Be governed by a statute, charter or a constitution
* Comply with and adhere to good corporate governance practices.
* Represent and regulate a recognised community of expert practitioners.
* Apply peer judgement in decisions.
* Develop, award and revoke professional designations rules or legislation
* Communicate revoking of designations.
* Monitor professional designations by legislation or rules.
* Manage revocation, discipline, appeals, complaints, transparently.
* Set criteria for, promote and monitor continuing professional development.
* Run an IT system compatible with National Learners’ Records Database, NLRD.
* Monitor compliance with a code of conduct or ethics
* Include criminal record screening where applicable.
* Co-operate with relevant QCs on qualifications and quality assurance.
* Be involved in development of specialised knowledge, by national and international benchmarks.
* Not be accredited as a provider by a QC.
* Not be registered as a training provider with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

NQF professional designations

Professional designations will be conferred by professional bodies, on individuals, by title, status, or registration number.

Professional designation indicates registration of an individual, and where relevant, rights to practice an expertise governed by the body.

Professional designations are registered separately from qualifications. Identical professional designations may not be registered by more than one professional body in South Africa.

Professional designations by international bodies shall meet South African NQF requirements.

Verification queries are the exclusive responsibility of the relevant professional body.

Professional designation criteria

Professional designations registered on the NQF, must be:
•    submitted to Saqa by a recognised professional body
•    subject to an application process
•    subject to relevant rules, legislation, or international conventions
•    monitored against relevant legislation or global conventions
•    part of a progression that may include an occupational pathway
•    linked to a validated database of names
•    include underlying qualification(s) or occupational qualification(s)
•    include  experiential learning, RPL, and experience
•    include continuing professional development (CPD)
•    include adherence to a code of professional ethics or conduct.

NQF functions are to;

* Provide a single integrated national framework for learning achievements.

* Facilitate access, mobility, and progression in education, training and career paths.

* Enhance quality of education and training.

* Accelerate redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment.

* Contribute to full personal development of learners

* Contribute to national social and economic development.

Policy and criteria objectives

Objectives of the new policy and criteria are to:

•    Promote public understanding of, and trust in, professions through the establishment of a nationally regulated system for the recognition of professional bodies and for registration of professional designations.

•    Encourage social responsibility and accountability within the professions

•    Promote protection of public by professional bodies from malpractice related to fulfilment of professional duties and responsibilities of registered professionals.

•    Encourage international best practice in professions, including continuing professional development.

•    Facilitate access to, and analysis of, data related to professions, including traditional trades and occupations, for purposes and use prescribed by NQF Act.

•    Support development of a national career advice system.

SHEQ registration issues

SHEQ professional registration is complicated by the fact that practitioners work in various sectors. SHEQ auditors working in various sectors all register with Saatca, occupational health and occupational hygiene practitioners register with established bodies, and environmental practitioners are developing their professional organisation, comments SHEQafrica.com editor SHEQafrica.

Safety practice, however, is specialised in each sector, and lacks a unified research, tertiary training, and organisational base. Safety practice organisations may yet develop in each major sector; such as construction, mining, manufacture, petrochemicals, logistics.

The Process Safety Forum under Caia could become a chemicals and petrochemicals sector safety registration body. NIXT could become an explosives registration body. The Road Freight Association could form a logistics safety registration body.

Professional registration is expensive

HR specialist Fiona Cameron-Brown commented in a circular; ”NQF objectives and principles are laudable, bit may be too onerous for embryonic professional bodies. If an organisation was new, and did not have an established fee paying membership base, the cost of compliance could be prohibitive.”

The NQF Act provides for three sub frameworks, and also for registration of professional designations in various disciplines, registered on the NQF.

Professional designations involve legalised criteria, as for engineers, accountants, financial planners, estate agents, and security guards.

Vocational training policy reform

Meanwhile the University of Newcastle, Australia, is assisting South Africa to reform Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET), in partnership with a local FET college, TAFE NSW Hunter Institute.

HR specialists involved include Fiona Cameron-Brown, some Namibian trainers, and Australians Donna Hensley and David Wise.

Terms defined

The following definitions follow from the NQF Act, the amended Skills Development Act, 97 of 1998, amended in 2008, and the Higher Education Laws Amendment Bill of July 2010:

“Occupational qualification” means a qualification associated with a trade, occupation or profession resulting from work-based learning and consisting of knowledge unit standards, practical unit standards and work experience unit standards.

“Professional body” means a body of expert practitioners in an occupational field, and includes an occupational body.

“Professional designation” means a title or status conferred by a professional body in recognition of a person’s expertise and right to practice in an occupational field.

“Provider” means a body that offers education programmes or trades, and occupational learning programmes that lead to a qualification or part qualification on the NQF.

“Qualification” means a registered national qualification.

* Saqa initiatives in drafting the new policy on professional registration, was first reported on SHEQafrica.com in July 2010. Review of public comment starts after October 15, 2010.

* PHOTO; Saqa CEO Samuel Isaacs.

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