The Hytec Group has become South Africa’s first company to receive full accreditation as a training provider to qualify ‘Fluid Power Fitters’. The Hytec Group, a hydraulics, pneumatics and automation specialist company, received full accreditation with program approval from the industry sector education and training authority – merSETA – to provide theoretical and practical training for the National Certificate Mechanical Engineering: Fitting (Fluid Power); and the National Certificate Mechanical Engineering: Fitting (Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Industries), both at NQF level II.
Registered with SAQA – the South African Qualifications Authority – the two qualifications comprise 49 individual unit standards (short courses) each with theoretical and practical components clustered into a learnership, which has a one year duration per NQF level. As the unit standards are dedicated to specific learning areas, learners may opt to qualify by following the full learnership route or undergo training for selected unit standards only. “This provides the flexibility for learners to complete the qualification in a unit standards format over a longer period if they are unable to complete a continuous learning programme,” says Allen van Gent, Hytec Group Training Manager and the driver behind the successful reinstatement of the fluid power qualification, the company’s accreditation and the programme approval.
There are currently four learners undergoing training at Hytec for the National Certificate: Mechanical Engineering: Fitting (Fluid Power) who, once qualified, will be the first Certified ‘Fluid Power Fitters’ in South Africa trained by a South African training provider. This is an achievement that the South African fluid power industry has been striving to achieve since 2 009 when the qualification was originally registered with SAQA,” van Gent asserts.
According to the SAQA qualification documentation, this qualification is comparable with many other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania and the United States, to name a few.
The National Certificate Mechanical Engineering Level 2 is the first in a learning path of three consecutive qualifications which culminate in a Further Education and Training Certificate: Mechanical engineering, NQF Level 4, within the context of a traditional designated trade specialisation.
The importance of the certification cannot be underestimated, according to van Gent who admits to there being numerous mechanical fitters with hydraulics industry experience. “It is the formal recognition of the specific training that’s important,” he points out. Essentially, the scope of training that we are accredited to provide encompasses every aspect that a ‘fluid power fitter’ needs to know in order to conduct his day-to-day activities within the fluid power industry. It is believed that qualified ‘fluid power fitters’ will save their respective companies, or clients, hours in downtime and reduce their spare parts expenditure.”
Currently Hytec’s training facilities provide for theoretical and practical learning of 36 learners. However, once housed in the new Hytec facility, due to open in 2018, three dedicated training rooms will be able to accommodate a combined capacity of 120 people. “One of the great training advantages of our new premises is the proximity of the theoretical training venues and the practical on-site location being in the same building,” van Gent says. “This means that learners are exposed to all facets of the qualification within the fluid power industry under one roof.”
Another part of the learning experience will be a state-of-the-art WS290 hydraulic and pneumatic training workstation donated by Bosch Rexroth Germany. The hydraulic power unit, with a loud sensing double pump, can accommodate four to six trainees simultaneously. It is perfectly suited for training sessions with respect to on/off, electro, proportional and closed-loop control hydraulics topics and on/off, electro pneumatics and PLCs which incorporate modular mechatronics systems. “This provides the type of training that is required to deem competency with respect to the qualification,” van Gent says. “We’ll use this state-of-the-art training workstation in our theoretical training and practical simulation to ensure that all learners gain hands-on experience in a controlled, practical learning environment.”
The full accreditation and programme approval process was a long and arduous one, beginning in 2016 as far as Hytec’s involvement is concerned, which was to maintain the existence of the qualification. However, the process has a history dating as far back as 2006. It was in this year that the South African Fluid Power Association (SAFPA) began designing and developing a curriculum for a National Certificate Mechanical Engineering: Fluid Power, a process which took them three years to finalise. There was no associated specification as a ‘Fluid Power Fitter’ or Technician in the legacy qualification prior to 2006.
“During the qualification design phase, SAFPA registered the curriculum and associated learning material with SAQA,” van Gent explains. “Unfortunately, post 2009 no learners were registered against the qualification and, because of this, SAQA deregistered it in 2015.” merSETA then replaced the qualification with the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QTCO) Tool Maker Occupational Qualification. Subsequently, SAFPA attempted to reinstate the original qualification as it planned to introduce a pilot programme for the fluid power industry. The pilot programme did not gain approval as the entire qualification had already been deregistered.
“SAQA required proof that industry faced a shortage of ‘fluid power fitters’ and that there would be definitive interest and uptake in the qualification,” van Gent states. During the course of 2016, SAFPA enrolled six learners onto the NQF level II pilot programme administered by TVET College JFa² Technical Training Institute, an East Rand-based TVET college. The college focused on the theoretically driven Core and Fundamental Unit Standards.
JFa² Technical Training Institute was endorsed by SAFPA in 2016 to provide the theoretical components of the qualification. “However,” van Gent asserts, “a company accredited to provide practical training was needed and at this stage as there was no hydraulics company accredited to do so.” It was at about this time that Hytec, concerned over the existing training gap for ‘Fluid Power Fitters’, for which there is a legitimate industry need, got involved.
Thus began the long and convoluted interactions between the relevant stakeholders, all doing their best to get the NQF qualification reinstated as it was prior to it being linked to the QTCO qualification. “Our goal was two-fold,” points out van Gent. “We needed the qualification reinstated and we aimed to get Hytec fully accredited as a training provider with programme approval for the full qualification”. Hytec and JFa² worked closely with the merSETA to get the qualification reinstated. Once SAQA approval had finally been obtained, Hytec employed and registered the learners who had completed theoretical training and wanted to continue with the qualification. Of the original six learners, only four remain.
After many negotiations and a lot of work carried out by Hytec Group’s Training Department, Hytec received full accreditation as a training provider with programme approval.
“We were subsequently informed that, as of 2019, all Legacy SAQA qualifications will be realigned or replaced by a QCTO occupational qualification,” van Gent says. “Subsequent to receiving this notification, relevant stakeholders in the fluid power industry are in the process of applying to register a QCTO Qualification: Fluid Power Fitter, and both SAFPA and industry will be kept up-to-date regarding the progress as it unfolds.”
At the time of writing, Hytec was awaiting feedback from its submission for registration with the Department of Higher Education.
Companies seeking further information can contact Hytec Group’s training department on tel: +27 (0) 11 979 4630.