Ask the Doctor Wed 18 Feb – The Workplace – Grandfathers are the backbone of all trades in SA

Valerie Madingwe asks: “My father brought us to SA from Zimbabwe where he was a skilled furniture carpenter. He has no papers and was not a qualified Artisan in Zimbabwe. Here in SA he works for a furniture company but is not paid as a skilled Artisan. The younger Artisans make fun of him and he is treated as inferior. What can he do?”

Valerie, your father is the best kind of skilled Artisan, which we should be proud to have in this country. He is practiced and seasoned. We have a process of “Grandfathering” people like him who have many years of appropriate experience but have not been through a Trade Test and hence whose competency to do the job has not been converted into a qualification.

A Section 21 Trade Test is precisely what your father needs to submit himself through. Or rather, what his Employer who must be a member of the Furniture Bargaining Council needs to register your father to go through.

The Section 21 has been designed for those individuals who are obviously competent, talented and can do the job but, going back to our days of Apartheid, were prevented from having formally recognized because of race and colour. However SA is not unique in making provision for alternative routes to recognition for purposes of Artisanship. Every mature country in the world has created the opportunity to first learn on-the-job from other skilled Artisans and then for the person to have access to a Trade Test to verify that competency.

Our Trade Testing Centres such as at Indlela, in Modderfontein, which are formal state sanctioned Trade Centres, are geared to “Grandfathering” via Section 21 processes those who deserve but have never had the opportunity of being tested and declared competent as an Artisan.

Here we are talking about the Blue-Collar Professions i.e. Trades but in the White Collar ones, the same process exists which we refer to as Recognition of Prior Learning.

However with regard to RPL services our Training Providers are compelled to provide RPL services for their qualifications but instead of providing them for purposes of awarding qualifications to people who are obviously competent, they only provide RPL services for access to qualifications. It is about money and the fact that Training Providers generally have very little insight into the opportunities, which they could create for themselves, financially by having a proper RPL system in-place for the Recognition of acquired levels of competency.

I am pleased to say that there is a very good National Agency we refer to as the National Artisan Moderating Body, which ensures that Trade Testing is accessible and available throughout South Africa in all sectors, which have registered Trades. Thus the pathway has been created Valerie, for people such as your father to have access to Section 21 Trade Testing opportunities as long as his Employer is willing to work with the Trade Testing Centre in granting your father the access he requires.

That is not to say that your father cannot approach Indlela on his own but it is more difficult.