A learner at The Institute of People Development (IPD) recently asked why the NQF level 5 National Diploma in ETDP was taking her longer and was more difficult than her NQF level 9 qualification from an academic institution. The answer is quite simple; in order to prove competence in an occupationally directed professional qualification it must be proven that the learner has knowledge and understanding of the theory (foundational competence), that the learner has the ability to apply that knowledge and understanding practically (practical competence), and that the learner has the ability to apply that knowledge, understanding and practical skill in an ever changing environment (reflexive competence).
What makes these qualifications different?
On the one hand, a professional qualification is usually made up of on-the-job training and various short courses, which when combined make up a qualification. On the other hand, the academic route focuses on the theory rather than practical application and leads to a qualification. With either approach, this formal qualification comes with a title that can be utilized infinitely, yet more often than not these titles are not treated as equal in the recruitment space.
If regulated by a professional body in the form of a professional designation, such titles must be renewed through annual reregistration with the regulatory body and include continuous professional development (CPD) activities to prove the currency of the skill/s.
The most striking difference between these forms of qualification is perhaps that a professional qualification, due to the nature of the training and the fact that it is built on practice analysis, offers a warrant of competence and expertise. It therefore certifies that, having completed the course or training, the graduate has the essential knowledge and skills to perform the duties required of his/her profession.
In contrast, an academic qualification does not certify competence and is not based on a systematic or formal practice analysis; all it certifies is that the learner has successfully learnt the theory behind the practice. For this reason, should human error lead to damages, no recourse will be permitted to an academic institution, but in certain cases, recourse to a regulatory body may be possible.
A collaborative approach will result in a combined effort in terms of professional and academic qualifications, utilizing skills analyses and gap training to expedite the process. This will allow these qualifications to feed off of each other to produce a skilled workforce with knowledge and experience; the perfect solution to combating the current skills-short market.
Perhaps the employers should be asking themselves the question; “Who should be employed in this particular job – someone who is a thought leader and will ensure best practice via specialized knowledge and research (thus an academic appointment), or a skilled professional who will provide best practice application?’
Issued by Perfect Word Consulting (Pty) Ltd
Whilst both academic and professional qualifications are recognized and controlled by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and both are indicative of a certain level of achievement, the levels of recognition of these forms of qualification are not always on par