Identify Target Markets for NQF Unit Standards and Qualifications

If you want to become SETA accredited it’s essential that you select qualifications or unit standards for skills programmes that are registered on the National Qualifications Framework.

Identifying your Training Target Market

If you want to become SETA accredited it’s essential that you select qualifications or unit standards for skills programmes that are registered on the National Qualifications Framework.

What are Unit Standards?

Unit standards were developed to meet qualification and skills programme needs. There are three types of unit standards:

  1. Fundamentals
    • language and mathematical literacy
    • a second language is required at NQF Level 4
    • candidates with Matric can be credited for the fundamentals if they enrol for a qualification at NQFL 4
    • private providers and employers usually prefer candidates who already have Matric for NQF Level qualifications so that they save time and money when training
  2. Core
    • essential unit standards to meet the qualification area of specialisation
    • critical for competency
  3. Elective
    • providers can select from a variety of electives linked to the qualification
    • strategic selection of electives can help organisations be more market competitive and responsive to market needs
    • most providers do not offer candidates a choice of electives although technically they could
    • you select electives based on the number of credits remaining after the fundamentals and core. For example:
      • If a qualification is 120 credits
      • and the fundamentals total 30 and the core totals 70 making 100 credits
      • then the outstanding credits are 20
      • you can select electives that make up 20 or you can exceed 20
      • there is no limit to the amount of electives you can offer on a qualification
      • but you may not select electives that total less than 20 credits

Unit Standard and Qualification Features

The table below appears on all unit standards, a similar one appears on full qualifications. Note the registration end date. Find out from the SETA what their intention is for the qualification or unit standard when it reaches it’s end date.

Note the NQF Level as that connects you to a relevant market. Go too high or too low up the NQF and you could miss your target market.

Also note the credits as these are linked to time – referred to as notional hours. Multiply credits by 10 to get an idea of the estimated time to deliver and complete the qualification successfully and meaningfully. Most employers want to commit as little time as possible away from work so you need to structure your training delivery in such a way to adapt to market needs and still meet notional time requirements.

12153 Use the writing process to compose texts required in the business environment
SGB GET/FET Language and Communication
Field 04 – Communication Studies and Language Language
Undefined Regular-Fundamental Level 4 NQF Level 04
Reregistered 2015-07-01 2018-06-30 SAQA 10105/14
2019-06-30 2022-06-30

Essential Unit Standard Components

The following is a summary of typical unit standard parts:

Unit Standard Titles

A unit standard title expresses the main outcome that someone who is credited with the unit standard has demonstrated they know and/or can do.

Specific Outcomes

Specific Outcomes are statements describing what learners’ knowledge and skills are assessed against.  Collectively, these comprise the outcome expressed in the title.  In order to be credited with the unit standard, a learner must achieve all of the specific outcomes described.

Assessment Criteria

Assessment criteria  specify the requirements  for meeting the outcomes.

These assessment criteria will specify what is expected to have been done or demonstrated to a particular quality, quantity, level or standard.

Range statements

Unit standards may include range statements. These ensure that the same factors are considered for assessment of each learner.  Range statements are also sometimes used to clarify evidence requirements and/or assessment conditions.

Finding Target Markets

Qualifications and unit standards offer direction on who would be most suitable for the learning program.

Purpose and Rationale

This section of the qualification or unit standard describes why the qualification is required in the industry.

This is an example of a statement from the Further Education and Training Certificate: Early Childhood Development


This is an entry-level Qualification for those who want to enter the field of Education, Training and Development, specifically within the sub-field of Early Childhood Development (ECD). Many of those who will seek this Qualification are already practising within the field, but without formal recognition.

This Qualification will enable recipients of this Qualification to facilitate the all-round development of young children in a manner that is sensitive to culture and individual needs (including special needs), and enable them to provide quality early childhood development services for children in a variety of contexts, including community-based services, ECD centres, at home and in institutions.

In particular, recipients of this qualification will be able to:

  • Plan and prepare for Early Childhood Development.
  • Facilitate and monitor the development of babies, toddlers and young children.
  • Provide care and support to babies, toddlers and young children.Practitioners will generally carry out their role under supervision and with the support of designed programmes.

This Qualification will provide a means for formal recognition of those who are already practising in the field, but without qualifications, as well as for those who wish to enter the field.

This qualification will also provide a basis for further professional development in the higher education and training band for many experienced practitioners in the field who have had limited or difficult access to further career development opportunities.


Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a priority area within the South African context and is supported by legislation, national policies and strategies. The development of babies, toddlers and young children forms the most critical foundation of further development into childhood and adulthood.

There is thus a vast need for ECD services, and it is critical that the field should be served by competent practitioners. In order to meet the needs at ECD level, it is important to be able to identify and recognise competent ECD practitioners who are able to work in a variety of ECD contexts.

This qualification will provide a means to give recognition to practitioners at an entry level, thus making it possible for practitioners to increase their employment prospects, and at the same time provide the field with suitably qualified practitioners.

This qualification will also provide a basis for further professional development in the higher education and training band for many experienced practitioners in the field who have had limited or difficult access to further career development opportunities.

Note that they have identified who this qualification would be relevant to, assisting providers to link the correct qualifications to particular markets.

Learning assumed to be in place and recognition of prior learning

Here is an example of a statement from the NQF Level 4 Further Education and Training Certificate: Marketing qualification:

It is assumed that the learners are competent in:

  • Communication at NQF Level 3.
  • Mathematical Literacy at NQF Level 3.
  • Computer Literacy at NQF Level 3.

Recognition of Prior Learning:

The structure of this Unit Standard based Qualification makes the Recognition of Prior Learning possible, if the learner is able to demonstrate competence in the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes implicit in this Marketing Qualification. Recognition of Prior Learning will be done by means of an Integrated Assessment.

This Recognition of Prior Learning may allow:

  • For accelerated access to further learning.
  • Gaining of credits towards a unit standard.All recognition of Prior Learning is subject to quality assurance by the relevant accredited Education, Training, Quality, and Assurance Body and is conducted by a registered workplace assessor. Because the standards are only core and fundamental, these standards may have been acquired in a range of economic sectors and these will be recognizes as appropriate.

Access to Qualification:

There is an open access to this qualification, keeping in mind the “Learning assumed to be in place”.

Open access means that there are few barriers to entry, if candidates have the communication, mathematical literacy and computer skills in place they will be able to be admitted on this programme.

Providers currently accredited to offer these programmes

Don’t trust what this section tells you. SAQA and the SETAs are INCREDIBLY BAD at maintaining the current validity of information on the SAQA website. SAQA will blame SETAs for not sending them the information and SETAs blame SAQA for not uploading information timeously.

Many qualifications don’t list any providers yet when you google the qualification, you find training providers popping up as accredited to deliver it. Go figure!

However, many qualifications do have this information available. Note who the providers are and then do an online survey of how they offer the qualification. Is it online, is it a public schedule etc… Unpack the different models and then develop your own.

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Applying for Accreditation

You will need to identify which qualifications, skills programmes or unit standards you wish to deliver on as an accredited training provider. Do not apply for accreditation for less than 5 unit standards unless you have identified a powerful niche market need that you can meet.

The fewer programmes you apply for accreditation on, the more narrow your market will be. Applying for a full qualification means that you can deliver that qualification in its entirety or break it apart into shorter skills programmes. In other words, full qualifications offer greater market agility.

If you are new to this formal delivery environment and want to grow slowly but steadily, sure, apply for accreditation on a series of unit standards or skills programmes that are relevant to your particular market.

Just don’t apply for accreditation on one unit standard – not smart at all! You will need to develop the same amount of systems evidence as what you would do for a full qualification. It’s a lot of work and time consuming. Offering one unit standard is simply not feasible for market development and business agility.

Thanks for reading! Please comment below!!!

Read more

SAQA’s policy guide on Quality Management Systems

The simple explanation to ‘What is a Unit Standard?’

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Comments (9)

  1. Francois Meyer

    Good day, how do I determine which seta is the originator of a unit standard? I have a customer who does not want us to conduct training on a qualification, but only on one unit standard, ie basic computer skills ( I have u/s 113836). It is an elective at various seta’s. Do I have to give them training on a core u/s?

    1. Interesting. It looks like that’s a TETA unit standard – check the details in the block at the top of the qualification / unit standard.
      You can provide training against that unit standard, I suspect you need TETA to certify.
      It’s so bizarre for me that a SETA certifies in another SETA’s domain. Hopefully I’m wrong, please let me know! 🙂

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