By Barney Richardson

Recently there have been discussions and planning by the DHET to increase the capacity of the so-called TVET Colleges to address the skills shortage.

The intention is to cover a wide spectrum of work trades. With regard to refrigeration and air conditioning there are serious challenges to achieving quality training from these colleges. All colleges, except for one in Cape Town, are under-resourced in terms of suitable cold room equipment for training and the tools necessary to facilitate comprehensive training up to and including a trade test in terms of the new curriculum. The initiative from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) aims at creating ‘centres of specialisation’ within the TVET colleges.

There are two main objectives in the centres of specialisation:

  1. To address the needs and demands of priority trades for the government’s National Development and National Infrastructure Plan.
  2. To build capacity of public TVET colleges to deliver trade qualifications with industry and employers as partners.

The plan is to follow up on implementation of a new Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) – trades that are based on the National Occupational Curriculum. The refrigeration and air conditioning trades will hopefully form part of this. The intention is to employ facilitators who are suitably trained in the fast-changing technology of the industry. This is where the bottleneck will be, finding qualified and experienced trainers or facilitators to teach the refrigeration subjects. Employers in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry must step up support for the plan and employ apprentices in these trades.

The Department is indicating several advantages to employers which should be grabbed at with both hands.

  1. There is a generous grant of R165 000 per apprentice from the SETA,
  2. Qualifying employers will have tax rebates available,
  3. It is a route for interested students to acquire the necessary skills and future employment,
  4. It creates competitiveness in the workforce for top skills,
  5. Companies would be in partnership with the colleges through their recruited apprentices.

The DHET and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) would treat this as a special project to meet service-level agreements. The aim is to have quality apprentices and qualified artisans. The target is to recruit an additional 840 apprentices across the board in 2020.

SARACCA participation in this training will be an extension of the training support that has been in place for many years. The training will also be a pipeline to registration with SAQCCGAS as Authorised Refrigeration Gas Practitioners.

There are several initiatives in the planning to enhance qualification and skills in refrigeration and air conditioning. These extend from the training of informal sector installers and repairers to the apprentice training programme. There is also the training initiative supported by the Bavarian State Government for skills in hydrocarbon refrigerants. This is an important part of new skills training as the world increasingly moves to using refrigerant gases that are flammable in the safety groups of A3, A2, and A2L.

It is important that all these training plans are geared toward the South African goal of improved skills and follow the new curriculum in refrigeration and air conditioning trades. It will unfortunately be easy to follow different skills training programmes that are not aligned to the curriculum. It would be a disaster if the trainee is left with a certificate of training that cannot be recognised by the government departments. Registration with SAQCCGas could be adversely affected if that a registration category cannot be properly allocated.

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