Although the National Qualification Framework’s programmes are in full swing, there have been problems.One could almost hear the collective groan across the country when estate agents first learnt that they were going to have to go back to school to learn about the industry. After all, large numbers of these individuals had been selling property for years and, according to many, they were better placed and, as such, could teach the authorities a thing or two about the business. The voices became a little quieter once the curriculum had been introduced and it soon became apparent that not everyone knew everything. Many welcomed the qualifications and the necessary work that was needed to qualify. However, there were those, particularly older agents who decided enough was enough and packed away their for sale signs for good. The dust appears to have settled and agents across the country have signed up and, in many cases, completed the required courses.The process, however, has not been without disruption. Margaret Nicol, the chairman of the Real Estate Service Providers says the qualification process has been fraught with challenges since its inception. “Initially there were only two accredited Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) service providers for the registered National Qualification Framework (NQF) level 4. In addition, there was no registered qualification for NQF Level 5 for Principals, even though they had the same timeline within which to complete the qualification.”It wasn’t the only problem that agents who registered early faced. According to Nicols, the initial pilot programmes were generously funded by the Services SETA at R12 500 per bursary, to initiate and provide impetus to the project. “The exercise, however, seemed a little premature as some of the work done came under the scrutiny of the EAAB, creating complications for the pioneer RPL candidates.”She says that the lack of exposure of certain RPL service providers to occupational education and training has had a negative impact on the quality of client service, project planning, service provision and, ultimately, the certification of the candidates. This was further exacerbated by the Services SETA certification backlog caused by, among other things, IT challenges, which she says they are currently addressing.Agents appear to have borne the brunt of a few unscrupulous service providers and horror stories began to emerge. Some of the issues included:• Recognition of Prior Learning courses crammed into impossible time frames ranging anything from three days to a week.• Very high dropout rates – sometimes as high as 50% or more.• Low competency rates.• Abuse of bursary schemes.• Compromised access requirements.• Overcharging for equivalence certificates.• Misrepresentation of Services SETA’s revised bursary of R9 000 per candidate and the basis on which these were available.• Royalties and kickbacks to institutions and associations. Not all agents have battled to become qualified. People working for larger agencies appear to have had the advantage of companies that as a group have investigated the various service providers available. Price, it seems was not the overriding factor, whereas delivery was.“Larger groups have the capacity and the ability to do their research more thoroughly and cost effectively as they have far greater financial and human capital resources from which to draw, compared with the smaller estate agencies,” said Bill Rawson from Rawson Properties. “Large agencies also tend to share and resolve problems relating to industry and each other. In the market place we are very competitive, but when it comes to industry challenges, we work together through the Institute of Estate Agents.”Despite all of the teething problems, the initiative seems to be on track, with Clive Ashpole from the Education and Training Department at the Estate Agency Affairs Board saying that in excess of 8 000 agents have now been certificated at both the NQF Level 4 and 5 estate agency qualifications. He says that a further 3 000 to 4 000 estate agents have received equivalency exemptions from the qualifications. “There are still many practising estate agents who will have to be certificated for the estate agency qualifications, but it is believed that many of these are already presently enrolled and undertaking the RPL assessment process.” He says the EAAB should be in a better position to provide more accurate figures in this respect of this in the near future.According to Ashpole, the EAAB has resolved that all estate agents who have, at least, committed themselves to the RPL assessment process by 31 December 2011 will be granted until 31 December 2013 within which to complete the process and to be certificated. However, agents who have neither been certificated for the required qualifications nor committed themselves to undergo the RPL assessment process will not be able to be issued with Fidelity Fund Certificates by the EAAB after 31 December 2011. “This is not a permanent disqualification, however, and such persons will be issued with fidelity fund certificates immediately when they have been duly certificated for the relevant estate agency qualifications.” He warns that estate agents who practise illegally subject themselves to criminal, civil and disciplinary sanctions.Many of the larger groups have instituted in-house training and appear to have avoided many of the issues experienced by those who have chosen to ‘go at it alone.’It will be interesting to discover just how many agents have left the industry due to the enforcement of qualifications. The question, which is undoubtedly being asked in a number of boardrooms across the country, is how much knowledge the industry has lost by scrapping the old board exam and replacing it with a complex curriculum. The costs, time and effort needed to become an estate agent are no longer trivial.Article courtesy of
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