There have been several concerns around solar training.

Image by <a href=>rasamoydas</a> from <a href=>Pixabay</a>

Image by rasamoydas from Pixabay

We approached IOPSA to provide the full picture of how they created a training course, a designation provided by PIRB with the concern being the third element of ‘on the job training’ apparently missing. Here is the response from IOPSA and please bear in mind the qualification will be reviewed in June 2023:

  1. “Any person, be they a plumber or joe public, is welcome to do the existing qualification through QCTO. The fact that nobody has done so in eight years indicates to me that, for whatever reasons, the industry has rejected it.
  2. Any training provider may apply to QCTO for accreditation to do the solar qualification.
  3. For about five years IOPSA promoted that plumbers should do this qualification and that training providers become accredited for it.

 There is nothing preventing the industry from taking up this option. In other words, there is complete freedom to do so or not. IOPSA has never discouraged or prevented anyone from doing it, in fact the opposite is true.

Now, to IOPSA’s solar program. About three or four years ago we recognised that nobody was taking up this qualification. Meanwhile, more and more solar systems were being installed but by untrained people. After much discussion with QCTO they indicated that they would only review the qualification in 2023. This left us with a predicament, what to do in the interim?

  1. Only a qualified plumber may participate in the program. Unqualified people may attend training but will not receive the designation.
  2. Given that this is a qualified plumber, the need for physical training was deemed unnecessary, they should already be very familiar with the required hand skills. What is needed is an understanding of the theory, regulations, and standards.
  3. Training providers apply to IOPSA for accreditation to participate and their learning material and curriculum etc. are vetted.
  4. I haven’t checked the exact numbers, but I think about six training providers are participating.
  5. IOPSA assesses the plumber’s knowledge and if they receive 80%, they are accepted and may register with PIRB.
  6. A designation is legally registered in terms of SAQA and is completely valid.
  7. A plumber may apply to CETA with a portfolio of evidence to have their knowledge and experience acknowledged as a qualification.

 Two key factors need to be considered. Firstly, SABS will be removing the requirement for a CoC on solar installation, this will mean that there will be no requirement for a plumber to register with PIRB (pending DEL’s decision). In fact, it will probably mean that any qualified plumber may do a solar installation, irrespective of their knowledge or any solar qualification. Secondly QCTO is busy with a process to review the solar qualification, it is likely to become a skills program open to qualified plumbers only, and as always will be available to any training provider.

I hope this clarifies the matter. Once again, I would like to reiterate that IOPSA cooperates with many other industry bodies very successfully. We have no objection to cooperating with like-minded organisations on any topic of mutual concern and do so regularly. If IPA would like to cooperate in such a manner, we are open to such cooperation. Surely, we can agree to disagree on certain topics and we are then both free to make representations to the relevant authorities and the industry putting across our point of view in a constructive manner. “

Background to the executive director’s above response was that Plumbing Africa felt the need for the two bodies to discuss these issues directly and fully, perhaps with a special group dedicated to this and other plumber training matters.

We understand that there are one on one discussions between individuals in each body and this is encouraging. We trust this will develop into a more formal relationship for the benefit of plumbing and plumbers.

Through the offices of Plumbing Africa, we have IOPSA and CETA talking at CEO level. Again, we trust that this develops into a solid and fruitful relationship.