The DITSELA Further Education and Training Certificate in Trade Union Practice Qualification (FETC: TUPQ)

by Grischelda Hartman, DITSELA Western Cape Programme Co-ordinator


The TUPQ is the flagship program of DITSELA which has been hailed as the first Level 4 qualification in trade unionism, and the first of its kind to be offered in South African and Africa. This qualification was always envisaged as a developmental vehicle for DITSELA into the formalisation of trade union education, and into formal qualifications and assessments. Except for the DITSELA Advanced National Labour Education Programme (DANLEP) a Level 5 Diploma currently offered in collaboration with the Universities of Western Cape and Cape Town, the focus was always and continue to be, the delivery of quality non-formal and formal education.


In 2008 DITSELA received provisional accreditation from the Education and Training Practices Sector Education Training Authority (EDTP SETA) to develop the qualification and continuously receive financial assistance for its delivery. It’s been a long journey since the program was first piloted in 2009 nationally with an intake of 50 learners, until now, with 2017 marking the third intake and the very first delivery in the Western Cape. It’s particularly exciting and challenging for the Western Cape as this would be the first time that we offer an accredited program after many years of delivering the popular Modular Program,  which was an intense and exciting two-year leadership program aimed at building and developing the capacity of Provincial / Local Office Bearers and shop stewards to be all round leaders.

The TUPQ follows in these footsteps of building leadership and acknowledging the contribution of trade union education in a formalised and structured approach.  The program aims to advance trade unionism, advance the rights of workers, and understand the relationship between the economy, political power and social classes in South Africa, to further understand the history of the trade union movement amongst others.


As this is a learnership, it has a theoretical component (class contact time) and structured learning within the workplace component (i.e. the union) supervised by a mentor. As is DITSELA tradition – the program still encompasses the principles of worker and adult education, which encourages learning by engaging different forms of methodology, combined with formal learning.  The program consists of 9 modules including Portfolio Development and learners have the opportunity to develop their portfolio as part of the (Recognition of Prior Learning) RPL process.


We started the program in March with 30 learners representing 13 different trade unions across all the trade union federations participating in DITSELA, as well as independent unions in South Africa. Shop stewards come from all over the Western Cape province and we have one participant from the Eastern Cape province. We are especially excited that this program will provide the balance between accredited formal education and training, build trade union leadership, is a platform for engagement and debating the challenges faced by the trade union movement and hopefully find means to resolve the challenges collectively.


The challenges for DITSELA in terms of the program is ensuring that participants complete the program, and ensuring that learners receive continuous support from their organisation and mentors.   Also, as an organisation we need to comply with the rules of South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the SETA in terms of materials design, reporting and administrative systems which places pressure on both physical and human resources, however as an organisation we have been able to adapt and take this on with great enthusiasm.


It is central that DITSELA continues to play a major role in ensuring and improving workers’ opportunities to gain access to further and higher education to build the capacity of working class organisations. That we provide a platform in the current socio-economic and political context for the leadership of trade unions to theorise and strategize, build bridges, acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to revitalise and reenergise the trade union movement.

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