Keep in training
Keep in training
The pandemic has caused massive disruptions across all industries. We chat to Joep Joubert, group manager of product development, training and certification at BBF SHEQ Services, about its effect on training providers and what the future holds for this sector.
BBF SHEQ Services has been a player within the training industry for more than two decades, although it originally was in a different incarnation. “Advantage ACT was established in 2000 and quickly became a well-respected and sought-after SHEQ training provider, taking on the big players in the industry,” explains Joubert.
“Pinnacle acquired the business in 2016, with myself in the role of MD. Pinnacle was subsequently acquired by the BBF Safety Group, which offered a range of training and advisory services as BBF SHEQ Services in 2017.
“Advantage ACT still administers all SHEQ training as a subsidiary of BBF SHEQ Services. My background is also deeply rooted in occupational health and safety (OHS) training, as I was the responsible lecturer for the national diploma in safety management at Technikon SA, technical manager for training at NOSA and establishing both the DEKRA Norisko Training Division and the Saacosh Training Academy. That amounts to 21 years of Advantage ACT as a SHEQ training provider.”
What training services do you offer?
We offer a wide range of OHS-related training courses:
• General health and safety training for employees (in other words, training required by legislation and best practice that needs to be rolled out in any workplace). This category includes courses in first aid, basic fire, health and safety, and incident investigation. This also provides the basis of skills training required by OHS practitioners.
• We also offer a wide range of legislation-based training, both in traditional presentation methods and customised for the client’s needs. Training includes OHS Act training, Mine Health and Safety Act training, training in all the relevant regulations, as well as Covid-19-related training.
• We pride ourselves on our ISO management systems training. We do ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, ISO 45001:2018 as well as integrated management systems training up to lead auditor level. Our lead auditor training is currently recognised by CQI/IRCA through an arrangement with BSCIC, but we have started the process of getting South African Auditor and Training Certification Authority accreditation for all our lead auditor training. (The CQI is
the professional body for experts in improving product, project and service quality. BSCIC is established as an independent conformity-assessment body and training organisation.)
• We also offer basic fall arrest, fall arrest and rescue and fall protection planner training, both at our premises and at client premises where they can meet the infrastructure requirements for the training. Our working at heights training is accredited with the Services SETA and recognised by the Institute for Working at Height (IWH).
We have accreditation for some of our training with the Health and Welfare SETA, Services SETA and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). We also have Continuing Professional Development recognition for our popular courses with the South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
Which of these are the most popular with your clients?
The need for different types of OHS training fluctuates over time, but currently the focus of most clients is to get legally compliant in terms of OHS again, after the disruptions caused by Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020.
Currently we are training a lot of people in first aid, basic fire, health and safety and legal liability. During more normal times we would also do a lot of hazard identification and risk assessment training, incident investigation training as well as ISO management system training. These courses are required by any organisation that wants to establish a working safety, health, environmental and quality management system; striving for a safer, healthier, more environmentally friendly and more efficient workplace.
How has the training landscape changed over the past few years?
The move to providing virtual training and other delivery methods has been fast-tracked during Covid-19, to which we have managed to adapt quite quickly.
On a larger scale, after the introduction of unit standard based training and the initial resistance to it, clients have generally accepted that the standards indicate a higher level of professionalism than previously and many clients now insist on accredited training. This has forced training service providers to improve their quality to be able to compete.
This is good for OHS, naturally, but as much as it is a positive to have the SETA factor there to oversee the unit standards, the red tape involved can also create some frustration for training service providers and industry alike.
This is now being replaced by QCTO legislation and structures just as the industry was getting used to the previous model, which obviously brings its own challenges. Changing the educational model in a country is not a fast process, though, and will require buy-in from all stakeholders to progress.
What developments are you most excited about?
Two main things are happening in the industry in general and in OHS specifically that bodes well for OHS training.
With all its negative impact, Covid-19 has highlighted health and safety in the workplace and through that has created an opportunity to bring more OHS training to a more receptive market. This will not only have an immediate impact, but will have long-term results.
The Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) has embarked on a process of revising OHS legislation, including the OHS Act as well as its regulations, which not only creates fresh training opportunities, but also creates renewed awareness, which should lead to improved compliance and also safer and healthier workplaces.
What challenges are the training industry facing?
The OHS training industry has always been plagued by unethical providers and it would be a great day for OHS training if an Ombudsman could be established to regulate the quality of training. The SETAs simply do not have the resources to ensure all providers deliver quality training; in addition, different SETAs have different standards.
There is also some misunderstanding by clients on the classification of OHS training through the SETA system. This leads to situations where some providers will provide a “SETA accredited” certificate for three-unit standards worth about ten credits, after only a three-hour session. It is outrageous!
Another huge challenge is the move from unit standard based training to a QCTO directed dispensation. The challenge here is that currently the QCTO legislation does not make provision for “short courses”, which means the basis for accreditation and the standards on which to base OHS training is no longer recognised. If this is allowed to proceed against the QCTO framework, it creates a potential for unethical providers to start delivering training again, based on the lack of recognised standards.
The Covid-19 fear is also a very real problem for training in general. Even though the Covid-19 directives currently make provision for controlled face-to-face contact training sessions, it is clear that most companies are still very wary and may be avoiding training altogether, unaware there are other delivery methods.
How are you overcoming these problems?
We at Advantage ACT have expanded our delivery models substantially to try and reach learners cautious of physical interaction or being prevented from attending training in person due to Covid-19 restrictions. We now have three full-scale delivery options:
Face-to-face training, either according to our public schedule or at a client’s site. Of course, we observe all Covid-19 protocols.
Virtual training for almost all our courses, making use of whatever platform the client prefers. Where such training requires physical work and assessment, like first aid training, a special arrangement is made with the client to do that. After initial testing in this regard, we have expanded our virtual delivery to include all training that can be delivered in this way.
Most of our courses are also now available through the traditional distance-education model, which appears to be quite well received.
Although we are still currently busy exploring the full-blown e-learning model, we have not introduced that yet, for various reasons.
In trying to address the QCTO issue, Advantage ACT has volunteered its expertise to industry bodies that have already started a campaign to make sure that these short courses are regulated in some way, to ensure quality in OHS training is not only maintained, but ultimately improved.
Advantage ACT is not able to directly do anything about unethical providers, but we have the moral responsibility to ensure that our training remains of the best quality we can provide, within the legislated framework for training.
And what does the future hold?
It is anticipated that even though the pandemic will pass, training and education in South Africa will never be the same again. Chances are that training will, in future, be far more distance oriented. This will most probably take the form of e-learning and virtual training, but the traditional model of distance education will still play a role for some time to come.
Training will become more of a blended offering, incorporating all the delivery methods, depending on what the training is about. Face-to-face-training will most probably have a place to a lesser or larger extent, depending on the practical nature of the training.
It is anticipated that due to the distance between learner and facilitator, a network of mentors/coaches will be established, where the mentor/coach will ensure the learner applies the practical component correctly and under supervision. This will have implications: the quality of mentors must be high enough to transfer the practical skills to an acceptable level.
If the DEL, specifically the Chief Inspector, has his way, one can expect a national registration process for OHS practitioners based mainly on the INSHPO Occupational Health and Safety Professional Capability Framework, which promises to uplift the general registration level of practitioners and would open up opportunities for training accordingly. Unfortunately, it’s most probably going to be a while before it becomes a reality.
And a final word…?
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the fibre of the world and unfortunately it can be expected that this will continue for some time to come. This also applies to all forms of training, which simply means that all training service providers will have to knuckle down and adapt to the new realities as soon and as best as possible.