The proposed SA Quality Council (SAQC) would include testing, inspection, certification, accreditation, and auditing bodies, like SA Quality Institute (SAQI), itself representing nine bodies, auditors registrar SAATCA, SASQ, assurance body SANAS, and other assessment bodies.
A Quality Management and Conformity Assessment Chamber board was already formed three years ago in a voluntary initiative, and was taken under Services Seta industry chambers patronage in 2010, aiming to standardise training, as well as to assess and register quality management assessors.
Services Seta CEO Dr Ivor Blumenthal is confident that he could convince the remaining quality assessment bodies, and potential professional registrars, to join the planned voluntary umbrella body, reports SHEQafrica.com editor SHEQafrica.
Professional registration mandate in 2011
“Floodgates for registration of professional bodies open in June 2011. Once the quality umbrella body is mandated by government as a ‘closed shop’, it would be empowered to fund itself”, Dr Blumenthal said.
The current large number of quality management bodies is disproportional to the small number of quality practitioners, the small number of quality training standards, and quality management certification standards.
Qualifications containing quality elements, as listed on the Saqa website, total close to 5000, most being industry specific.
“We should establish a set of generic quality training standards, starting at basic inspection level, moving up to top quality management level, drafted by a public private partnership, as represented, for example, on SABS standards committees”, commented SAQI MD Paul Harding.
The proposed SAQC would register quality professionals, practitioners, management system consultants, managers, auditors, engineers, metrologists, students, and trainers.
Two designations, quality manager, and quality auditor, are already standardised, following a consulting contract. “There is currently no funding to expand designation standards to other quality practice classes”, said launch committee chairperson Patrick Mclaren.
SHEQ could be one profession
Safety and environmental management practitioner organisations would be welcome to join. “For practices not represented by current bodies, new bodies could be formed”, said Mclaren.
Bodies under the umbrella board would retain their functions, and demarcate some functions to prevent duplication. “It would be business as usual, except that professional designations and registration becomes a function of the umbrella board.”
Registrars are not allowed to offer training, and training providers are not allowed to offer registration services, in terms of the Saqa professional designations policy draft that was out for comment in October, and is due for publication.
Some occupational health and hygiene practitioners are already professionalised via a number of medical bodies.
Competing quality registrars
Several quality management training providers already claim their right to sell or issue professional designations, without SAQA sanction.
“Some other organisations also claim to represent professional groupings that include quality managers, as part of their focus,” Dr Blumenthal said.
Saqa posed the quality assessment profession with three options for professionalisation, underwritten by the state via Saqa, in terms of its mandate over professional bodies;
* Choose one existing body to represent the profession
* Combine existing bodies under a new federal umbrella board
* Allow any body with a critical mass of membership and standardised criteria to represent its members. Saqa views this option as ideal.
Quality assessment specialists support the ‘federal umbrella board’ option. “If a stalemate ensues, Saqa would force competing organisations to collaborate”, Dr Blumenthal warned.
Quality professions mandate in March 2011
SAQC provisional chairperson Patrick Mclaren called for a mandate to empower a federal board to professionalise quality practice in 2011, since three years of preparation for collaboration had already been done.
Delegates to the conference, titled ‘Empowering future quality professionals’, supported the new body in principle, but refused to give the launch body a mandate in the absence of detailed terms of reference, such as functions, criteria, funding, and costs.
A colloquium would be called early in 2011, including invitations to everyone involved in assessment functions, and terms of reference for a mandate would be laid before the quality profession and interested parties in March 2011.
Saqa explained that it was setting out a roadmap to professional registration for quality specialists. In turn, the management assessment profession may be one of the first to serve as a test run for the new Saqa policy on professional registration.
The new board, under the Services Seta Quality Management Services Chamber, will maintain international links. South African quality graduates, diplomats and practitioners, in the view of the Services Seta and participating bodies, require professional development, recognition and self regulation.
Meanwhile Saqa had released a policy for current and future professional registration bodies in late 2010. The new policy would apply to existing and future professional registration bodies, including engineers, chartered accountants, medical doctors, occupational health and hygiene practitioners, safety and environmental managers.
DTI stopped SAQI funding
The Department of Trade and Industry, DTI, had formerly funded the SA Quality Institute, SAQI, which had offices in the DTI building, at R2-m per year. DTI had stopped funding without explanation, and transferred funds to SEDA for SMME development.
Severing of ties between DTI and SAQI was a mutual initiative, SAQI MD Paul Harding told SHEQafridca.com. “The relationship did not achieve a broad focus across all sectors, as SAQI had set out to achieve”, he said.
There have been attempts to professionalise quality in the last 15 years, said SAQI MD Paul Harding. He sees the road to professionalisation to include voluntary representation, funding, staff, standardisation, education, advocacy, and training bursaries.
Registration could involve a separate examination, as already applied for auditor registration by Saatca.
Some professionals fear that ‘board’ exams would be open to abuse, could add nothing to the skills of practitioners, and may constitute merely a licence, to sell licenses to practice., Likewise, some ISO 9001 certifications are achieved merely as a licence to trade.
“Registration exams should be voluntary, and not legalised or sanctioned by the sate,” commented Harding. He believes that training should be standardised in line with international ISO quality standards, and in line with advice from professionals and employers.
Training standards should then be available to any registered training providers.
Government and business not sold on quality
Quality management in government, state and business in South Africa, is lacking, partly sice quality professionals have not succeeded in selling the benefits of their craft to government and business, said QSI MD David Crawford.
Many practitioners believe that their lack of professional status, is part of the cause for the ‘unprofessional’ reputation of quality management. Poorly trained, qualified and experienced management consultants are also part of the problem.
Among the delegates at the Quality professions industry national conference in Boksburg in 2010, were;
• Services Seta CEO Dr Ivor Blumenthal
• Services Seta CEO designate Devan Naiker, who discussed the proposed skills standard NSDS 111
• Services Seta ETQA manager Paul Dhlamini, who discussed accreditation
• Services Seta SSICTO manager, Lerato Bogoshi, who explained the new skills development landscape
• QM&CAC chairperson Hennie de Wet
• QSI CEO David Crawford
• SABS official Iain Muir, who discussed conformity assessment
• Transformation Council and SAQI board member Dr Lucas Moloi
• SAQI MD Paul Harding
• Eskom quality manager and SAQI board member Aletta Mashao
• Zola Bunene, environmental management consultant
PHOTO; Services Seta Quality Management Chamber chairperson Patrick Mclaren.