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The Recognition of Prior Learning, a City project, is targeting military veterans this year, assessing and boosting their skills to make them more employable.

ABOUT a thousand former soldiers have been selected to undergo a two-month skills assessment and training programme as part of the City's annual Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) project.

The project is run by the City’s directorate of small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) development and support, a unit in its department of economic development.

Sicelo Mayiyane, the directorate’s operations manager, says the RPL is a system engineered to appraise and accredit skills and competencies as well as knowledge that has been attained in previous jobs and “during parenting or while practicing hobbies”.

It is a critical aspect of developing an equitable human resources education and training system, Mayiyane says, because it recognises “varying differences among mature adult learners”.

During July and August, candidates’ skills and experience in construction, civil works, security, computer literacy, bricklaying and masonry, plumbing, tiling, painting, welding, carpentry, catering, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and motor mechanics, among other professions, will be boosted.

Those who complete the course successfully will receive certificates of competency and will be registered on the National Learners’ Registration Database (NLRD) and the Labour Market Information Database (LMID).

The NLRD is an electronic information management system that administers the National Qualifications Framework and enables the South African Qualifications Authority to report accurately on education and training in the country.

Mayiyane says the LMID facilitates the flow of information “for job seekers, in particular, venerable job seekers and emerging entrepreneurs. The LMID will enable job seekers to be ready to find employment while facilitating that others receive assistance in improving their self employability”.  

He believes the RPL will help unemployed former soldiers “become more employable. But these are citizens with a difference as the City has decided to target one of its key constituencies, ex-military veterans”.

Participants are chosen after the department of economic development hosted a targeted symposium in May to identify and register veterans from Alexandra, Diepsloot, Ivory Park, Lenasia, Soweto and Crown Mines. The department commissioned the Growth Laboratory - G’Lab - a private company specialising in research and programme management, to administer the project.

The participants underwent a rigorous skills assessment. The participants are now in the second phase, which involves “empowering” them with their skills – in essence, boosting their skills.

To take part, candidates have to register with the City’s targeted beneficiaries unit, which verifies their military history. They are then screened by a registered education, training and development practitioner to assess their experience and competency in different sectors, says Mayiyane.

Candidates are approved on the basis of their skills and experience, he emphasises, adding that they are then assisted in advised on an appropriate career path in those chosen fields. And finding some from of employment 
“Unapproved candidates are advised on a different path and/or additional training requirements. They are then allocated to an assessment centre where the actual assessment is conducted by a registered assessor,” he says.

“The City’s skills assessment programme is customised to provide candidates with a competency-based certification that will assist them to be more employable.” Assessments are only conducted at assessment centres registered with the relevant sector education and training authority (Seta), he says.

Skills gap
The RPL is conducted in relation to the City’s Growth and Development Strategy (GDS). “The GDS identified a mismatch between the demand for and supply of skills within the city as a key constraint to the achievement of [its] future growth and development potential.”

Mayiyane acknowledges that the RPL is “an attempt to close that gap”; unemployed people who have gone through the RPL are listed on the city’s Labour Market Information Database.

Sustainable delivery of essential social services, socio-economic development, integrating and involving residents in local government, and promoting a safe and healthy municipality are at the heart of the GDS.

Through it, Mayiyane says, the City has identified the potential of the construction sector to promote growth, vibrancy and development of the economy, with emphasis placed on skills acquisition.

The first RPL was undertaken in 2008 and “boasted 1 500 unemployed citizens who were successfully assessed for skills in the construction industry”. Of all the successful candidates, over 280 have been placed in jobs or in further training.

Mary-Anne Williams, from Riverlea, has been through the RPL programme. “I enrolled for the programme early last year and I can say ever since I completed it my life has changed for the better. I now work in a private hospital doing laundry, and although this is not the skill I was equipped with, I am able to make a living because of the exposure given to me by the RPL,” she says.

For her to work as a painter, a skill she was equipped with through the RPL, Williams says she has to receive her certificate of competency first. “I am waiting for them to call me again and tell me when to come and collect the certificate, because when I apply for jobs around the community as a painter people are often reluctant to hire me because I don’t have proof of my credentials and experience.”

Other Joburgers who are unemployed should give the RPL a try and inquire about future projects, she advises. “Maybe if people apply for this they can get skills which can go a long way in helping them to better their lives.”

The programme has also changed the life of Mziwoxolo Kubaai from White City, in Soweto. He says it has exposed him to a lot of other opportunities within the City’s economy.

Having enrolled in the RPL in early 2008, Kubaai says he is now working as a painter in the city centre, doing “piece jobs”. “I think Joburgers should take advantage of this project [in future] because it is really life changing. Through enrolling for the project I have been exposed to so many economic opportunities and I can even use some of the skills I have at home,” he says.

Mayiyane notes that for a city with the stature and reputation of Joburg to become a thriving world-class metro, “it has to encompass a skills base to match the growing demands of the mainstream economy and the labour market”.

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