UPDATE ON STUDENT AND PROGRAMME SUPPORT – SEPT ’23

By Ashwell Glasson 

The third quarter of the year was a busy one for the Student Administration and Programme Support (SPS) Department. We had several groups of students complete their training courses, including the highly sought-after Braveheart Ranger Leadership Development programme. 

Bushwise Field Guide Students 

We received a new group of Field Guide students from Bushwise in July. The group has started its Field Guide training journey at our wonderful campus and training area which is an open system with the Kruger National Park (KNP). This provides incredible opportunities for the students to learn in a near-wilderness region of the KNP. We support the Bushwise students in their learning process by giving them access to our library and resource centre for after-hours study purposes. 

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work 

The Winter and early Spring are always busy with various maintenance projects within the College. Our team joined the maintenance team as they were carrying out road maintenance work. We also joined them as they were doing controlled grass burning for fire management. Teamwork makes the workload easier and supporting our maintenance department is crucial to the efficient running of the College. 

Capacity Building 

The SPS department has had several internal capacity-building projects with many of our staff attending training to support the roll-out of the three-year Diploma in Applied Natural Resource Management. The Diploma has been submitted for accreditation to the Council for Higher Education (CHE).  

We have also piloted Career Guidance Services in small groups and on a one-on-one basis in order to assist staff in planning their career development needs as well as to provide them with vital information on the courses and professional development interventions that they can undertake to improve their opportunities for advancement.  

At present, the Registrar and Deputy-Registrar are leading these initiatives with a view to broadening them for our students and possibly school learners in our local community schools in Welverdiend. Career Guidance services will be aimed at assisting students with possibilities of future studies that they could undertake linked to their natural interests. 

Recognition of Prior Learning 

The SPS department has been implementing a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) project for senior Field Rangers from the Kruger National Park who have historically not had opportunities for promotion, or advancement because of limited schooling. The RPL assessment strategy focuses on the possible advancement of the Field Rangers into higher-level positions. It provides recognition for the skills and competence that they have gained over the many years of their service in the Kruger National Park. Just over 50 of the top Field Rangers have undergone the RPL assessment process and they have all done exceptionally well. This is a real testament to the management approach of the KNP to developing their teams and bringing significant positive impact to their Ranger Corps. This initiative will hopefully boost morale and enhance ranger retention. We also hope that it will result in senior Field Rangers coaching, mentoring, and supporting their younger colleagues. This will ensure that critical institutional knowledge and workplace culture is transferred to the upcoming Field Rangers. 

Beginning of a New Era 

The College has entered an exciting phase with the change of national qualification systems. In South Africa, there has been a significant shift from the traditional unit-standard-based qualifications to the implementation of the Occupational Qualifications system. This change aims to address the needs of both employers and employees by providing a more holistic approach to skill development and recognition. 

The unit-standard-based qualifications are used to focus on discrete skills and knowledge, often leading to fragmented learning experiences for individuals. However, with the introduction of the Occupational Qualifications system, the emphasis has shifted towards broader occupational competence. This means that individuals are now required to demonstrate not only their technical skills but also their ability to apply them in real-world situations. This philosophy aligns strongly with the College’s Applied Learning strategy, and the work being led by the Applied Learning and Research Department (ALRD). 

This shift is crucial as it aligns qualifications with industry demands and promotes lifelong learning. The Occupational Qualifications system ensures that individuals are equipped with relevant skills that can be readily applied in their chosen occupations. It also encourages continuous professional development, enabling workers to stay updated with changing technologies and practices. 

Overall, the move from unit-standard-based qualifications to the Occupational Qualifications system in South Africa reflects a more comprehensive and practical approach towards skill development. By focusing on occupational competence rather than isolated units of competency, this new system better prepares individuals for employment opportunities and enhances their overall career prospects.   

What does this mean for the College?  

Firstly, the College will have to get re-accredited by the new accreditation authority, known as the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). In turn, it means that we will update our course materials, assessment techniques and education and training methods to match the requirements of the new qualifications. We also take the opportunity to reflect on our historical approaches to learning and teaching.  

The College has a significant history of delivering a diverse range of Field Ranger and Conservation Management qualifications, including our highly recognised Field Ranger training that takes place at our Protected Area Integrity (PAI) training facility. 

The accreditation process is underway, and we are looking forward to implementing the occupational qualifications in future. Along with the Antipoaching Ranger qualification which is focused on the ongoing conservation law enforcement sector needs, the Protected Area Integrity (PAI) business unit is developing and updating its learning materials for the replacement of the Field Ranger occupational qualification. 

The Community Youth Development (CYD) business unit has selected the Eco-Ranger skills programme, the New Venture Creation skills programme and the Conflict Management skills programme. These skills programmes will address the many opportunities for environmental monitor training, the development of community-based enterprises and conflict resolution for communities in areas that experience human-wildlife conflict. Over time, further programmes will be added to the College portfolio of training offerings. 

Seasons 

The third quarter of the year seems to be the birthday season for the SPS department as several staff had birthdays very close to each other. The department, therefore, decided to have a collective birthday party, thanks to our wonderful team at the Hospitality Department.  

With the arrival of Spring, the wildlife and landscape have shifted, bursting with green and lots of activity. This includes visits by birds such as the pair of Retz’s Helmet-Shrike, who often land on our Registrar’s office windowsill to have a look at themselves in the reflection. We look forward to the rest of the year and the Summer ahead.  

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