Let’s talk about training

Let’s talk about training

With a vision of promoting efficient and cost-effective compliance, Sharon and Bryan van Heever launched their own occupational health and safety consulting and training firm. We chat to Ms van den Heever about Hesscon’s journey.

Having worked in the corporate and training arena for years, Sharon van den Heever (Hesscon director) and Bryan van den Heever (operations manager) decided to put their own mark on the occupational health and safety (OHS) landscape. “It was filled with large and complicated systems that were cumbersome and expensive,” Sharon explains. “Bryan comes from a training and safety background and my passion is people, management and the development of both.” Hesscon’s focus was initially on consulting, but from there it grew.

How did Hesscon enter the training industry?

As we worked with more and more organisations, we realised that there was a huge demand for expert-based training from a facilitator with practical OHS experience.

For how long has Hesscon been active in this trade?

We started informally in 2008, part time, but it didn’t work out so we rebooted in 2013. Between Bryan and myself we have 30 years of business experience in our various areas of expertise.

What should people consider before they choose a training provider?

It is of utmost importance for people or organisations to look for accreditations. Using a training provider that is properly accredited is the best way to go. There are, unfortunately, many training providers that undertake compliance training that have not aligned and accredited the programmes correctly, which inevitably leads to learners undertaking training that is not valid and does not allow for career growth.

How has the industry changed over the years?

The biggest change to the industry is the move towards online or virtual training. This change, which came about because of Covid-19, has been challenging but welcome. Secondly, there are changes in the landscape, as a training provider, in the accreditation process where legacy qualifications are not being renewed. This will change the training landscape and providers need to be aware of the cut-off date and take measures now to ensure that they are prepared.

Any developments within the training sphere that you are excited about?

Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) Occupational Qualifications are gaining momentum and there is a major drive towards the formalisation of experience through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). We have geared ourselves to address this need.

What should an institution do to get accredited as an RPL provider?

Check with the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA), Education and Training Quality Assurance (ETQA) or the QCTO that your qualifications, unit standards or programmes are accredited, recognised or can be delivered through RPL. You will need to get approval in writing from these various authorities, and the person managing and developing the system and process should be a RPL subject-matter expert.

Why did Hesscon decide to offer its Construction Health and Safety and the Safety Practitioner certificates through RPL?

Many people have been working in the OHS industry for years, but have not had the opportunity or funds to formalise their experience and knowledge. This is simply because, years ago, safety was not a focus. This has changed in recent years – more so since Covid-19.

Many of the regulatory authorities are ensuring that companies and OHS practitioners are compliant. This finds the experienced individual in the difficult situation of having limited or no qualifications. Work needs to continue but they cannot execute their OHS functions due to the lack of a formal qualification.

Hesscon therefore developed a pilot programme, which our first three RPL candidates have already completed. The programme was very successful and the pilot has helped us to fine-tune everything, ready to launch for 2022 RPL candidates.

What benefits does RPL provide?

  • Mentoring and coaching (should this be required);
  • Flexibility to continue working while gaining a qualification;
  • The ability to apply assignments and learning directly to the current workplace;
  • Cost effectiveness; and
  • A faster turnaround time to complete a formal qualification.

What challenges does the training industry face?

QCTO and SETA training provider accreditation, reaccreditations, extensions of scope, external moderations and statements of results take a long time to be processed. The delays can take years and Covid has now placed a financial strain on these entities as they rely on funds from the Skills Development Levy that were not paid for four months during Covid. This will negatively impact the learnerships, short skills programmes, apprenticeships, bursaries and many more SETA-funded initiatives for 2022.

What does the future hold for the training industry?

The private training provider industry is by far the most flexible and fast-paced industry as far as skills development in South Africa is concerned. If we could get faster turnaround times from the ETQAs and regulatory bodies, we would be able to speedily address the skills gaps in the industry – which, in turn, would grow the small and medium sized businesses in the country exponentially. This would, in turn, add to the economic growth of our country that we so desperately need.

Any additional comments?

Most training providers are small business owners and are agile and have had a difficult navigation through Covid, but the journey has been one of many interesting discoveries for us as training providers. It has shown us that we are far more resilient than we gave ourselves credit for and I am thankful that we get to help people – who decide to learn, develop and grow – on a daily basis.

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