Sanire has played an active role in defining the levels and types of qualifications required for a career in rock engineering, as well as the course content for these qualifications. Read more…

The development of a career path and associated qualifications for rock engineering must include suitable qualifications to supplement and replace the current Chamber of Mines (COM) Certificates of Competency.

Sanire’s efforts to date have been split into two sections, NQF levels 1-4 (the Further Education and Training, or FET, band) and levels 5-10 (the Higher Education and Training, or HET, band).

For the FET band, level 2 (Observer), 3 (Junior Strata Control Officer) and 4 (Strata Control Officer) qualifications are already registered with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), as are all the applicable unit standards.

The learning material for level 2 is complete, but some packs for levels 3 are still outstanding. For level 4, the majority has not yet been allocated for writing.

For the HET band, it has been established that rock engineering practitioners are, in fact, engineers as they carry out design activities, as opposed to scientists. Rock engineering work is on a level that would most likely require professional registration with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) at some point in the future.

The role of the MQA

The Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) is a statutory body established in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act. It is a registered Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta) for the Mining and Minerals Sector in terms of the Skills Development Act.

Its core functions include:

  • developing and implementing a sector skills plan.
  • developing unit standards and qualifications for the sector.
  • establishing, registering, administering and promoting learnerships, and administering apprenticeships.
  • maintaining the quality of standards, qualifications and learning provision.
  • disbursing grants from the skills development levy.

The SAQA Act requires of the MQA to generate unit standards and qualifications. This activity is carried out by the Standards Generating Body (SGB), the main function of which is to design outcomes-based qualifications and write the associated unit standards for registration on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

Groups that get the job done

Stakeholders including employers, the state, labour, service providers (such as universities), manufacturers and professional bodies, have nominated people with technical expertise to serve on the SGB’s various working groups. These working groups, called Technical Reference Groups (TRGs), identify qualifications that are required by the sector and then detail the competencies that are applicable to these qualifications. The qualifications are then designed and populated with the associated unit standards.

These qualifications and unit standards then undergo rigorous ratification through the SGB’s validation process before being submitted to SAQA for registration on the NQF.

Once qualifications are registered, the TRGs develop appropriate learnerships associated with these qualifications for submission to the learnerships unit of the MQA. Registered unit standards are packaged into appropriate skills programmes for registration on the MQA database, where required.

Learning material developed for the associated registered unit standards are co-ordinated by the learnerships unit and ratified for technical content by the TRGs.

To search for qualifications on the SAQA searchable database, go to Choose Qualifications and Unit Standards. This will take you to various searchable databases.

A complete career path

Of particular interest to Sanire members is the development of a complete career path for rock engineering, allowing a candidate to enter at the bottom and progress to the level of manager. Here is an example of such a career path:

Discussions are currently under way regarding suitable replacement qualifications for the COM Rock Mechanics Certificate and the COM Advanced Rock Engineering Certificate. Some of the requirements for the replacement qualification, particularly the Rock Mechanics Certificate, are:

  • alignment with the Higher Education Qualification Framework (it must be an academic qualification).
  • progression and articulation.
  • allowance for structured and distance learning.
  • allowance for professional registration.
  • it must be based on the revised syllabus.
  • it must not re-invent the wheel.

The plan going forward includes:

  • identifying the ideal potential replacement qualifications.
  • finalising time frames and methodology for the replacement process.
  • obtaining buy-in from stakeholders (employers, COM, ECSA).
  • setting up new qualifications with tertiary providers.
  • sorting out overlap arrangements.
  • setting up registration process and transitional arrangements with ECSA.
  • starting to register existing rock engineering practitioners.
  • implementing changes, monitoring and correcting if necessary.