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The recently renamed Association for Skills Development in SA (ASDSA) and two other leading professional bodies have joined forces in an initiative to improve governance and standards of practice among skills-development workers.
Collectively, the ASDSA, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and Chartered Institute for the Management of Assessment Practice (Cimap) represent the interests of many of the professions tasked with implementing the National Skills Development Strategy.
These include training providers, skills development facilitators, moderators, assessors, and human resources and organisational development practitioners.
The three bodies have drawn up a memorandum of understanding whereby they will launch an informal confederation of professional associations shortly.
“This is not an initiative that is dominated by any one body,” insists SABPP chief executive Marius Meyer. “It is a meeting place of equals who are prepared to put aside their individual interests to promote the greater skills development cause.
“About a third of SABPP’s members are learning and development practitioners, and here we see opportunities for collaborating with the ASDSA.”
Alliance talks were sparked after the SABPP and ASDSA came together two years ago in a working group convened by the Services Seta to develop vocational qualifications for skills development facilitators.
“This was the first step towards formal discussions on how we could work together to determine the gaps in the skills development system and find ways to bridge them,” says Meyer.
ASDSA chairwoman Gill Connellan says each participating body will maintain its unique identity and focus, but that overlaps in strategic objectives and membership mean there are more synergies than differences.
“The first skills development facilitators (SDFs) were little more than information conduits between companies and the Setas with which they were registered, with many of them having the role thrust upon them in addition to their full-time HR, finance, training or other functions. Each Seta had its own SDFs and each sector had unique requirements,” she says.
“Every Seta saw the SDF role differently,” adds Connellan, “so there were no generally accepted standards of competence or practice. Without benchmarks there can be no effective governance and the consequence was that facilitators were looked upon as conniving and, often, downright dishonest.”
The establishment of the body and its adherence to a standard of good practice and code of conduct for its members had gone a long way to changing these perceptions.
“One thing that hasn’t changed is that our members are still the information conduits between the originators of skills development policy (government), its implementers (business and the Setas) and its beneficiaries (workers, unemployed people and students).
“Skills development practitioners know better than anyone else what works and what doesn’t in the real world. As such, they should be encouraged to provide constructive inputs upwards along the supply chain,” insists Connellan.
“By sharing resources and achieving scale efficiencies, we will be able to develop better professional qualifications and continuing professional development programmes across the spectrum of skills development-related occupations. This will benefit the members of all participating bodies.”
Cimap chairwoman Dr Michele Serfontein says the maturation of the National Skills Development Strategy has placed a greater emphasis on the role of assessors and moderators. However, a lack of standardisation and regulation has called assessment practices into question.
“Standardisation is important because our system fails when the people who implement national policy are neither monitored nor held accountable because there are no benchmarks of practice.”
Cimap was established last year by following closely the trail blazed by the ASDSA.
As such, she says, collaboration has already paid huge dividends.
“Our biggest challenge is that assessment takes place across industries as well as ETQAs (education and training quality assurance bodies). This mirrors the challenge ASDSA has been able to overcome, and Cimap would be foolish not to draw on the association’s experience.”
Regarding the immediate road ahead for the coalition, she feels the focus must be on “sharing our knowledge resources and dovetailing activities in order to gain the ultimate exposure and leverage for everyone involved”.
l For more information contact Gill Connellan (ASDSA) at firstname.lastname@example.org; Marius Meyer (SABPP) email@example.com; Michele Serfontein (Cimap) firstname.lastname@example.org