The value of technical diplomas

A NATED diploma allows learners to develop practical skills founded on the latest theory and principles, combined with 18 to 24 months of on-the-job experience.

Johannesburg, 04 Mar 2020
Read time 4min 50sec
Ojelakin Joshua Ayobolu.
Ojelakin Joshua Ayobolu.

Ojelakin Joshua Ayobolu, Faculty Head: NATED, CTU Training Solutions, says: “A National Accredited Technical Education Diploma (NATED) is basically an undergraduate qualification delivered under the auspices of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations and the Department of Higher Education and Training. These certifications combine theory and practical work, and are registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).”

Learners can embark on engineering studies ranging from N1 to N6 and on humanities courses from N4 to N6. The ultimate goal of the engineering NATED course is to study for an N6 Engineering Diploma, which takes approximately three years to complete, encompassing 18 months of theory and 18 months of practical experience.

“A National Diploma is completely different from a degree,” explains Ayobolu, “in that the National Diploma is divided into three levels, which are N4, N5 and N6. On completion of each level, learners are issued with a National Certificate.”

This type of qualification is aimed primarily at giving the learner the technical, theoretical, practical and workplace knowledge and skills required in their chosen occupational or vocational area. The courses are designed to enable learners to progressively obtain a qualification by completing the related N4, N5 and N6 courses in a particular vocational or occupational area, either piecemeal with breaks between the courses, or in one extended study period of a year or 18 months. The knowledge and skills learned are then applied in the workplace for an extended period before certification is awarded.

Ayobolu explains how NATED qualifications fit into the academic structure. “According to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) NQF Act 67 of 2008, the framework consists of 10 levels that are divided into three bands. Levels 1 to 4 are the equivalent of Grades 9 to 12, as well as occupational certificates. Levels 5 to 8 equal higher certificates and diplomas; advanced certificates, degrees and advanced diplomas; honours degrees; postgraduate diplomas and occupational certificates. Levels 9 and 10 are master’s and doctorates, respectively.”

A NATED diploma – on NQF 6 – is one level below a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees are NQF level 7 qualifications. It is, however, possible to get your degree, if you meet the applicable requirements, once you have a National Diploma. Once a learner has received their NATED diploma, they can apply to study a B-Tech degree, with the provisos that it has to be in a related field and all admission requirements are met.

There are several advantages to choosing to study towards a NATED diploma. Ayobolu explains: “A NATED diploma allows the learner to develop practical skills founded on the latest theory and principles, combined with an extended period of between 18 and 24 months of on-the-job experience.

“In addition, the N4, N5 and N6 modules can be completed as individual units of learning that develop specific knowledge and skills. While they form part of the complete qualification, they also equip the learners to be productively employed as second-level technicians.”

The top six advantages of completing a NATED qualification are:

  • At each level a significant volume of learning outcomes will be achieved. This prepares learners for employment, participation in society and community, and access to higher levels of education and training. Further education can lead to higher education studies.
  • A certificate is awarded to all learners who successfully complete the requirements at Levels 1 to 5, and an advanced certificate is awarded at Level 6.
  • This qualification offers both theoretical and practical learning with a strong workplace learning component.
  • The qualification has been compared with qualifications and training offered in countries that have a strong vocational educational and training system designed for young adults, for those who enjoy upskilling themselves on an ongoing basis and for the updating of existing employees’ skills levels.
  • Colleges could be more affordable than higher education institutions. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are willing to learn could receive financial aid from colleges. The colleges also have a variety of programmes and services, including student support centres.
  • Learners are able to study a diploma part time, especially at private institutions and technical colleges. This means that while doing a diploma, the learner can get a part-time job to help pay for tuition fees.

Learners who have completed a NATED diploma will be able to work in a number of specialised positions within their chosen field. They should be aware, however, that certain higher-level positions typically require a degree. The advantage of having a NATED diploma is that the learner will already have a lot of practical experience that they can apply in the workplace. For example, an engineering NATED diploma will allow the learner to perform a wide variety of jobs, such as electrical work or working as a diesel mechanic.

Ayobolu says: “Whether it’s a learner wanting to follow a more technical career path or an employee wanting to update their skills and earn a formal qualification, the way that NATED courses are structured means that they’re accessible to everyone. They’re also an option for those who simply can’t afford a university degree. With unemployment at an all-time high, as well as huge demand for technical skills, these types of qualifications also empower people to eventually start their own small business.”

Students can get more information on technical diplomas at CTU Training Solutions’ open days: https://ctutraining.ac.za/upcoming-events/