First Formal Qualification In Trade Unionism

Establishing this Further Education Certificate in Trade Union Practices (FETC: TUP) was not an easy task and represents the hard work and dedication of Ditsela and its partners over the last two years This learnership began to take form in 2005 through a consultative study into the feasibility of a national qualification in trade unionism. This project was commissioned by the ETDP SETA and undertaken by the Centre for Education Policy Development (CEPD). Ditsela’s contributions to this study were influenced by its own prior research and debates within the labour movement on accreditation. Through the FETC: TUP learnership trade unionists will be provided with the option of being able to attain a SAQA accredited qualification. While accreditation is still a hotly contested subject within the labour movement, this learnership focuses on addressing issues of development and internal capacity building. Following a Joint Ditsela/ETDP SETA Inter-Federation Consultative workshop held in March 2009, it was agreed that Ditsela and the Seta would offer the Qualification as a national pilot programme to 50 candidates selected by all the federations and drawn from all parts of the country. The course would run over 18 months, with roughly one week contact time per module and a minimum of six weeks between contact sessions. This qualification is set up similarly to other learnerships, with participants expected to complete 30% of their learning through facilitated contact sessions and the remaining 70% on the job. Part of the success of this learnership therefore lies with individual participants determination and guidance provided by their individual mentors. The course is divided into eight modules. Currently participants are about to begin their forth module on Labour Law. This half way point has marked participants’ completion of a fundamental English writing and maths skills module, as well as the history of trade unions and how they work module and the political economy module completed in December 2010. In the upcoming months, participants will also be completing courses including; Organising Workers, Women’s and Other Forms of Oppression, Building Effective Organisations and a choice between either Collective Bargaining or Media & Communications. In addition to offering the qualification itself, it was of great importance to incorporate the concept of recognised prior learning (RPL). Many trade unionists have vast knowledge of and experience in the work they do, although they often do not have the “papers” or accreditation to prove it. RPL aims at providing a systematic acknowledgement of knowledge and experience achieved in a different context and in so doing provides access to certain qualifications or gives credit for a particular qualification or part thereof. The FETC: TUP Pilot is only the beginning of a truly developmental journey. It signals the first real step of providing worker-friendly access to a registered qualification. As previously indicated, the next TUP Learnership module is entitled The Law as an Organising Tool and examines not only labour law, but includes discussion around recent amendments and how the effective understanding of legislation can both empower and engage workers. Module 4 is scheduled to take place from 07-11 February 2011.