Angela Newman recently completed ODI’s NQF5 National Certificate in Productivity. She found that, what started out to be a paper, turned into an exciting, eventful, real-life Operations Excellence game changer.
“My first exposure to the programme came early on in 2019 when I started peripherally assisting with the on-lining of this programme. Once it was completed and open for registration I signed up as quickly as I could. In the first virtual support session I remember asking some really ‘interesting’ questions, the answers to which became part and parcel of the everyday use of the course, but at that time I was still on track for the paper qualification.
At the start of 2021 I was invited to collaborate in the roll-out of the Operations Excellence programme on-site at a plant in Port Elizabeth. I was asked to assist in the facilitation and assessment of the NQF3 (Supervision for Energised Workteams) programme. The Port Elizabeth Operations Excellence programme involved approximately 13 NQF3 learners and approximately 8 NQF5 National Certificate in Productivity, learners. At that time, I was still enrolled – but hadn’t really progressed in the NQF5 blended learning programme.
I started attending the NQF5 discussion sessions and, more importantly, I was included in all of the plant inspections and Gemba walks & checks. This is where I started to get insight as to how little I knew and understood. Soon, some of the terminology from the NQF5 programme and the factory jargon started coming to life for me – including, and importantly, the concept of the Gemba walk. I did have a lot of questions, but fortunately I also had my NQF5 class and an excellent mentor to assist me.
The NQF5 and the NQF3 roll-outs were scheduled to run in parallel and both were offered from the same training venue and plant. The NQF5 class being the senior supervisors to the supervisors, first-line managers etc., the majority of whom were enrolled in the NQF3.
Initially, I was very nervous about committing my thoughts and understanding to paper, in the workplace activities because I realised how much of an outsider I was to the actual operations excellence programme. However, I realised that to get the best understanding of the whole process I had to work through it, so that I would be better able to reflect and use all of the learning in each situation.
One of the things that worked out to be very useful or was intentionally designed to be very useful, was that quite a lot of the contents of the NQF3 and the NQF5 complemented one other, so what I was learning in NQF5, I was teaching – at a different level – in the NQF3 programme. For instance, initially I was going to work with some of the other members of the NQF5 to create and be part of their mini-business, however, at the NQF3 level the training department needed to create its own mini-business, and so I became a member of the training department’s mini-business. We had to create our mini-business’s vision, mission, values etc and for our vision, we settled on:
“We will be a centre of Excellence for Learning and Development for the footwear industry, aiming to increase the productivity and sustainability of South African products and footwear producers.“
Ultimately this turned out to be very ironic – but we’ll get to that later.
One of the things that I hear often, which I sure most facilitators hear is: “Are the bosses being told this?” – and in this roll-out I could answer in the affirmative, and even show the NQF3 learners the page reference!
At the end of last year, I was encouraged to push past the rest of my group to finish ahead of schedule. This, of course, had its pros and cons but I felt that by then I had sufficient real-life information to do the course some justice. I did my final FISA presentation at the end of last year.
Some of the areas that have inspired me the most are:
- When my NQF3 delegates learnt about the leadership element of courage, and they realised that they have an obligation to stand up for their teams.
- My NQF3 learners saying that they can see the NQF5 learners trying to make the changes, the physical ones to the plant are relatively the easy ones in comparison to the personal changes being undertaken. The fact that parties have realised that they need to act differently is inspiring.
- The learner who tried to get out of the course for at least the first 3 modules, is now one of the trail blazers in handing in work on time, or ahead of time.
- My NQF3 learners saying that at the start of the training they couldn’t understand why they should be doing this training and why they needed to be involved – they have done things like this for the last 28 years, why change now, and now they are seeing the changes and enthusing about the why change now and showing their teams and new recruits the importance of the new ways.
- The physical changes made at the plant – and the learners asking why it took so long to make these obviously beneficial changes.
- The vision that we set as the vision for the training department was, as set out above, to be “a centre of Excellence for Learning and Development for the footwear industry”. Although this was displayed on our mini-business dashboard, I made mention of it in my FISA presentation, and I was surprised when I went to the plant the next time and found that they had taken the vision to hand and re-designed the storage area into an extended classroom, including such details in the plans to adjust the plant’s air conditioners to cool the room in summer and reverse them to warm it in winter, so that it could become a true ‘centre of excellence’.
Initially, the changes, as all change processes are, were resisted and somewhat opposed, but now the changes have a positive infectious effect:
- Where one area gets a model machine, other areas want model machines.
- Where more flow is successfully achieved in one area, other areas want less work-in-progress.
Hopefully it will also be the case that where some see NQF5 & NQF3 qualifications from ODI, others will also want to get those qualifications.”
For many businesses, it is a priority to improve the skills of their employees, and face-to-face classroom training is not always possible. ODI, however, believes that a blended approach, where there is an element of classroom, as well as technology-based learning, is stronger.
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