SAQA Cracks Whip in Registration Circus

SAQA’s draft policy for professional bodies and designations, is out for comment before 15 October 2010.

The policy aims to bring order to the current circus of self regulation, and would present major hurdles, perhaps even a dead end to self-appointed ‘registrars’ like OHSAP.

Some professional membership bodies and registrars have made a playground of registration, professing ‘standards and ethics’, while sliding towards unaccountable, clique based, and expensive quality assurance practice.

SAQA is duly sanctioned and empowered to introduce quality assurance mechanisms to the conferring and revocation (in theory, perhaps soon in practice) of titles like doctor, engineer, advocate, chartered accountant, member of the motor industries federation or member of the security institute, etc.

Construction Regulations ammendment

As you may know, some people, supposedly not the IoSM /OHSAP clique, managed to convince the legislator, via the DOL ACOHS, to slip the words “and registered with a body, which is registered with SANAS” into a tagged-on definition in a draft Construction Regulations amendment.

The draft is due for review, but OHSAP /IoSM and other ‘registrars’ had jumped the gun, even before the draft was published, to advocate that registration would become law.

It seems that OHSAP planned a SANAS accreditation process even before the DOL set the draft amendment in motion.

After 10 years of a dribble of members and lackluster results, OHSAP started using the supposed Construction Regulations Amendment in their marketing, and some more practitioners signed up. Without the threat of possible pending legislation, OHSAP would still be a non-starter.

Registration bandwagon

Now we have a number of prospective registrars, including existing construction bodies, awaiting legal license to sell registration, titles, ‘development’ and verification services.

IoSM is going along for the OHSAP ride. The sad truth is that there is no evidence to suggest that ‘professionalisation’ would change our safety skills deficit, even in the next 10 years of OHSAP machinations.

SAQA, not SANAS verification

I have commented on the construction regulations draft saga in this blog, and some practitioners have informed the DOL that the proposed definition of ‘construction safety practitioner’ would serve the interests of OHSAP and three or four opportunist ‘registrars’, and not of SHEQ employers or practitioners.

We also alerted the DOL that SANAS was not the appropriate place for registrars to register, while SAQA was.

Not enough Safety professionals

Our construction colleagues should know that Safety ‘professionalisation’ would not solve any of their current problems in finding, recruiting and appointing safety skills.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, there are not enough of the people that OHSAP and others are eager to enlist, examine, verify, grade and charge fees.

The lack of safety skills will persist while the majority of construction employers skirt their responsibility to train and pay safety specialists.

Training providers and the Master Builders Association in Gauteng are running relevant courses, but specialised tertiary pathways are limited.

I support the new SAQA policy, yet two of the requirements in the draft policy on professional registration could move the safety profession in the wrong direction. Titles are separated from qualifications, and verification queries are privatised.

We need qualifications, not titles

SAQA wants “professional designations, registered separately from qualifications”, while we should instead depend on SHEQ qualifications and experience closely tailored to various SHEQ jobs.

Employers should not rely on registration hierarchy ‘titles’, like the supposed Registrar of Safety (ROS) Cord, ROS Prac, ROS Prof, or ‘registered’ this or that, to decide on SHEQ appointments.

Titles do not guarantee training, skill or ethics, as construction slab collapses and medical malpractice cases warn us.

The SAQA policy point on separating designations from qualifications does not make much sense. Certain qualifications are inherent in designations.

Registrars and membership bodies must not be sanctioned to usurp an education and training function by way of ‘registration exams’.

Registrars should help to develop qualifications, as the policy requires them to do, and rely on qualifications. Registrars will be barred from training provision, but they should also be barred from selling exams, CPD, and training material.

We need qualification data access

SAQA proposes that “registration verification queries are the exclusive responsibility of the relevant professional body”, while we need centralised, state verification of qualifications instead.

Registration bodies are already required to submit data to the National Learners’ Records Database, NLRD. SAQA should build its verification capacity.

NLRD data and access is more secure than registration bodies data and access, and less open to a range of potential abuses, than registration data.

I do not trust professional bodies to verify qualifications that they are not allowed to confer. Some elements of the SAQA policy may entrench a layer of fragmented and expensive bureaucracy in professions.

SAQA saw them coming

SAQA had apparently given professional registration much thought, and some policy points reveal anticipated ‘registrar’ problems.

SAQA would require registration to be an “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.”

Consultation is not a strong point at OHSAP. A supposed ‘open invitation’ to join a structure crafted by a small membership body, and constant references to ‘talk to Ray Strydom’, is not ‘consultation’.

IoSM, creators of OHSAP, had already inspired a breakaway group.

The ‘one third’ representation or membership requirement is out of OHSAP’s reach. OHSAP should not spend its membership fees, since they may have to pay members back if they fail to make the SAQA grade.

* 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.

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