Written by Dennis Lamberti, Development Director of Media Works.

South Africa is a diverse country with many economic opportunities, particularly in the mining, engineering and manufacturing industries. However, a large portion of the population are unskilled and unqualified, thanks to the country’s political legacy. There are many employment opportunities for skilled artisans, but South Africa often has to import this talent as a result of poorly qualified labour force available here. By way of example, Asian artisans had to be contracted for the construction at the Medupi and Kusile power plants as there are not enough skilled workers available locally.  

In order to address this, the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) was established under the Skills Development Act. The QCTO manages and coordinates the qualifications in the occupational qualifications framework in terms of their development, provision, assessment and impact. An occupational qualification is associated with

a trade, occupation or profession resulting from work-based learning and consisting of three components, one for knowledge, one for practical skills and one for work experience. All occupational qualifications require a final test or what is called 'an external, summative assessment' which, when successfully passed, signals to the world that the person is able to fully perform the work of the occupation. The QCTO recommends qualifications for registration on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) to South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

Key to the QCTO is the Foundational Learning Competence (FLC). The FLC is a part qualification consisting of two learning areas: Communications and Mathematical Literacy. These two subjects form a part qualification for many qualifications listed with the QCTO at NQF level 4 and below. It describes the minimum competence needed in these two key areas that is required by people to function optimally in the world of work.

The key purpose of FLC is to remove barriers to occupational learning and skills development. It is designed to uplift the literacy and numeracy skills of new entrants to industry as well as existing employees. The skills developed in Communications and Mathematical Literacy have been identified as foundational for learners wanting to progress in their occupation/trade and skills development.

Another great innovation is that the FLC need only be done once. It cuts through trades and occupations at NQF levels 2 to 4. Once completed a learner can continue to any trade or occupation, up to level 4, without having to repeat the fundamental subjects.

FLC Communications includes the elements of reading and writing, speaking and listening, visual literacy, language structure and use, study skills as well as workplace terminology. The purpose is to enable learners to deal confidently and successfully with the language of learning and teaching (LOLT) of formal occupational training, in relation to oral skills, reading and writing. It is the language of most external assessments such as trade tests. Once learners have achieved their part qualification in Communications they will be able to progress further in their chosen occupational pathway and workplace contexts. For example, this would enable a plumbing apprentice to write their trade test in English and fully comprehend the questions being asked. Where Adult Education and Training (AET) is learning to read, FLC is reading to learn.

FLC Mathematical Literacy is the minimum, generic maths literacy which provides learners with an adequate foundation to cope with the mathematical demands of occupational training and to engage meaningfully in real-life situations that involve maths. It develops the ability to work with different kinds of numbers in different ways as a critical skill. It enables learners to use numbers to make sense of situations and to calculate and solve problems in a variety of familiar and unfamiliar contexts. For example, this part qualification would give a hairdressing apprentice the basic maths skills needed to measure the correct amount of hair dye for a colour formula as the person would understand millimetres versus grams.

There are a few considerations that need to be taken into account when conducting FLC training.

  1. 1.Who needs this part qualification?
  2. 2.What method would best suit your organisation?

Learners who have passed Grade 12 since 2008 and hold the NSC with passes in both English and Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy may be exempt from the FLC, provided they have passed both learning areas with a reasonably good pass mark. People with a Grade 12 certificate prior to 2008 that does not include mathematics will be required to at least do the FLC assessment for Mathematical Literacy.

Some learners may feel that they have achieved the FLC through work experience. Such learners are invited to do the FLC final/summative assessment to ensure they have the required literacy and numeracy skills of the FLC. Under the South African Qualifications Authority Act, all candidates who seek to obtain qualifications at levels 3 and 4 will need to have passed FLC.

It is common practice for learners to complete a readiness assessment first. This will indicate whether the learner is ready to embark on the FLC or ready to try the exit assessment.

Depending on the availability of time and equipment you may choose to go the computer-assisted method or the traditional face-to-face method. Each method has its merits. You may even decide to opt for a blend of the two.

Once the learner has been enrolled, sensitisation workshops are conducted with all stakeholders and the training timetables are compiled according to the chosen training method. Summative assessments are conducted through the Independent Examinations Board (IEB).

The FLC material – Access - is available from Media Works in computer-assisted and face-to-face methods and includes a comprehensive facilitator guide and user-friendly workbooks to ensure that learners understand the material and can demonstrate their new skills with confidence. For more information, please visit