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Understanding Artisan Training & Development in South Africa

Although the Manpower Training Act has been repealed, there is still a lot of confusion in the tooling industry surrounding the historical artisan training programme versus new legislations and training practices, now legislated under the Skills Development act in the hopes of moving towards a national non-sector based system.

Here, you will find an explanation of each practice in detail and the new trade test process, as well as practical advice for candidates for individuals working towards a toolmaking qualification.

Historical Artisan Training Programme

Before the new legislation came into power, artisan development was legislated by the Manpower Training Act (MTA) of 1981.

Under the MTA, there were two ways to become a certificated artisan in the tooling industry and both of these practices are still around, despite the act being revoked.

In both cases, the candidates may apply for a trade test (NQF Level 4) and on successful completion of the trade test, become certified artisans.

Once a candidate has applied, he/she will have to wait until they get an appointment for their trade test. This can take from a few months to more than a year depending on availability of trade test centres.

Section 13 Apprenticeship

A Section 13 qualified artisan was formally indentured as an ‘apprentice’ at a single employer for the duration of the apprenticeship as outlined in the conditions of apprenticeships.  Apprentices employed by companies under Section 13, would complete N-courses to cover the trade theory component at public or private Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges, and do their practical training at Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) / Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) accredited skills development providers (either externally or internally with the employer). The tooling company where they are employed provided the workplace learning in line with the training schedule of the relevant trade.  

Previously, certification was operated by Industry Training boards, SETAs and the Department of Labour (later Higher Education and Training), but since October 2013, the QCTO started issuing all Trade certificates known as the “red seal”.

Section 13 candidates should complete their trade test within the contracted period.

Section 28 Trade Test

Section 28 certification involves the Recognition of Prior Learning. This is meant for people not contracted as apprentices but employed as skilled/semi-skilled workers with several years’ experience and who have experience in the entire scope of the trade and wish to write the same trade test as the apprentices. It involves providing sufficient, verifiable evidence attesting to work experience.
Section 28 candidates have an unlimited time period to complete their trade test.

The New Qualification

During the past decade, it became clear that the knowledge economy requires a different, more flexibly-skilled worker who can contribute to greater profitability and productivity.  It was evident that education should align with the needs of the tooling industry to ensure the successful employment of workers.

In 2009, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) was established and the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and Further Education and Training Colleges (FETs) became part of the legislative competence of DHET as a starting point in changing artisan development in South Africa working towards creating a more flexibly skilled worker.

The NQF Act replaced the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act of 1995 and three Quality Councils (QCs) were established to replace the previous Education and Training Quality Assurance (ETQA) function. The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) is now responsible for quality assurance and the certification process for new trade and occupational qualifications.

The National Artisan Moderation Body (NAMB) has a key function to link all quality assurance artisan learning processes with FET colleges and to:

• develop and moderate artisan trade tests
• develop and manage the national database of registered artisan trade assessors and moderators
• record artisan achievements
• recommend certification of artisans to the QCTO

In order to address the needs of the industry, the QCTO appointed the Toolmaking Association of South Africa (TASA) as a Development Quality Partner (DQP) to coordinate the development of the new requirements and related documentation and specifications for the training of Toolmakers in South Africa in consultation with all organisations having a stake or interest in the Toolmaker qualification.  NAMB has the statutory function in terms of the SDA to develop Trade Tests for all the new trade qualifications once registered by SAQA as indicated in Government Gazette 35625 dated August 2012.

This curriculum was approved by QCTO and registered by SAQA as the national standard for toolmaker training in South Africa on 07 November 2013 as Toolmaker NQF Level 5 (SAQA Qual ID: 91796).

The new Toolmaker (91796) qualification requires that a candidate successfully completes the following:

• Knowledge modules (trade theory subjects)
• Practical skills modules
• Workplace experience modules presented by an approved employer

Once a candidate complies with the above-mentioned, he/she will be allowed access to an external integrated summative assessment (the trade test) conducted at any QCTO accredited Trade Test provider.

The development and implementation of the new system is in a transitional stage and although the qualification was approved by the QCTO and registered with SAQA, NAMB is still in the process of finalising the Toolmaker Trade Test. Learners entering the qualification registered on 7 November 2013 will be trade tested on the Trade Test developed by the NAMB once finalised and learners have completed their learning.  

TASA/NTIP can therefore not commit NAMB to any time scale or completion date as to when the new toolmaker trade test will be finalised. It should be noted that due to the fact that Toolmaking was a previously designated trade, there is an existing Trade test which learners may attempt based on the Transitional Arrangements as signed by the DG DHET on the 28 July 2014.

Preparation work by the Technical Working Group (TWG), appointed by NAMB to do the detailed content development for the new trade test, is anticipated to be completed by November 2014. Once this has been completed, the new trade test will be piloted as part of the approval process.  Piloting is anticipated to be completed by January 2015.  Hereafter NAMB’s internal processes will determine when candidates can start applying for trade testing.

The TDM Powered Programme

The TDM Powered Programme was launched in 2011 as a pilot to determine a national standard for toolmaking training in South Africa.  The first students have now completed the knowledge modules and are in the process of completing the Practical Skills Modules.  Both these modules, together with their work experience modules, are a prerequisite for eligibility for the trade test.

Existing trade test centres accredited for the old Section 13 and 28 toolmaker qualifications currently do not comply with the requirements for trade testing of the new NQF Level 5 qualification, due to the lack of relevant equipment and facilities. Six new trade centres are under construction to comply with the requirements of the new trade test.  Once trade tests development is completed, criteria will be made available to all centres nationally to prepare themselves for accreditation and implementation of the new trade test.


Toolmaker Trade (1981 - current)

The new Toolmaker Qualification (2013 - future)

Apprenticeship Learnership / Workplace experience Apprenticeship / Learnership

NQF Level:

4 4 5

Legislative Framework

Manpower Training Act SDA 1997 Skills Development Act of 2008.

Registration and certification

Section 13 Section 28 Section 26 D


Employed apprentice contract Employed as semi-skilled / Learnership contract (not permanently employed) Employed or unemployed (Sect 18.1 and 18.2)
Complete N-courses at private or public TVET Colleges

Complete Learnership or Recognition of verifiable workplace experience as employed or self-employed

Complete specified Knowledge modules and Practical Skills modules presented by a skills development provider accredited by QCTO.
Practical Training at accredited institutions Work place learning Modules done at SETA approved workplaces
Workplace training at company


INDLELA and SETA Accredited trade test centre.

Accredited education and training provider for Learnership certificates only not TRADE TEST

Trade test at INDLELA and /SETA Accredited decentralised trade test centre
QCTO Accredited Trade test Centres

Quality assurance

MTA Registrar of Manpower SETA ETQA for Learnerships Trade test by MTA Registrar of Manpower QCTO


(1981 - March 2014)
MTA - Red Seal Certificate SETA ETQA - trade certificate QCTO from December 2013
Since October 2013 QCTO  - Occupational/Trade Certificate:  Toolmaker QCTO  - Occupational/Trade Certificate:  Toolmaker QCTO  - Occupational/Trade Certificate: Toolmaker NQF Level 5

Trade Test

SETA/ITB/Industry consulted SETA/ITB/Industry consulted NAMB approved NQF Level 5 trade test currently under development

Options for Aspiring Artisans

Prospective artisan students have a number of choices when it comes to completing their toolmaker qualification, however, it is imperative to take the long-term consequences into consideration when making a choice.  It is important for candidates to realise that it is not easy to pass a trade test and it is therefore advisable to have as much as possible workplace experience before applying to do the trade test.

Option 1: Switching between qualifications

Candidates may apply through the former learnership process (Section 28) for access to the former trade test assessing a candidate against the minimum requirements of the previous NQF Level 4 trade qualification requirements.
Under current regulations, a candidate cannot offer the same training for two certificates – meaning that the candidate has to choose whether he/she wants to complete the current trade test resulting in certification against the Toolmaker Occupational/Trade Certificate or the new trade test, allowing certification against the new Toolmaker NQF Level 5 Occupational/Trade Certificate.

This route not recommended for candidates who have completed the TDM Powered Training Programme.  

Option 2: The alternative

Get as much workplace experience as possible and apply for the Trade Test once it is available.  

Use your NIMS credentials to get employed and be prepared to work hard.  Try and get substantial experience, this will help you progress in your place of employment to Toolmaker status. While gaining experience in preparation for trade testing, interim positions are available – from general machine operator to a basic CNC machinist.

The competencies achieved to date give candidates access to a number of opportunities. The brochure ‘Qualifications: The TDM Powered Programme’ provides detailed information on this subject.

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