Learnerships can improve unemployment figures
Companies can make a significant difference to the country's frighteningly high unemployment statistics by getting involved in learnership programmes.
SA's official unemployment rate is slightly over 27%, according to Statistics SA, but that only takes into account the number of people who are actively looking for work, not those who have never tried, or have given up looking for a job. Government is continually talking about job creation, but this is countered by a lack of skills for those jobs that are available.
This is where business can take matters into its own hands, says Bonita Brown, group corporate sales director at CTU Training. Learnerships provide companies with an opportunity to upskill both the unemployed and the employed, including their own staff, by funding their training, while at the same time improving their broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) ranking.
Brown says: "Learnerships are a unique offering because they combine workplace experience with industry-relevant training, resulting in a well-rounded individual who will have the required knowledge and some workplace experience to fill a position within that specific sector. The benefit for the sponsor (or funding company) is that learnerships contribute towards the company's employment equity objectives."
The intention of a learnership is to create a pool of trained and skilled employees who can either take up a position (or achieve promotion) within the organisation, or move on to find employment elsewhere. The added benefits for the business include higher returns from its skills levy, as well as SA Revenue Service tax incentives if the company registers a learnership agreement with a Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA).
Brown continues: "The main advantage of learnerships for unemployed individuals is that the learner receives workplace experience, and this contributes enormously to making the learner workplace ready. The learner is definitely more employable after completing a learnership owing to the workplace component."
She goes on to explain why companies should go the learnership route, as opposed to sending people on short courses.
"The benefit of learnerships for the business is that while there are various free and paid-for short courses available online that businesses can access for their employees, these are predominantly not credit bearing. This means that the company will only be able to claim a small portion of these from its skills levy.
"In addition, short courses don't offer a progressive qualification-based development opportunity once concluded. Learnerships and skills development programmes, on the other hand, are credit bearing and offer the benefits mentioned above, as well as providing a more practical and job-relevant skill set."
For businesses that prefer to keep their staff on site, learnerships can be delivered using various methodologies to ensure the learner receives the necessary contact sessions, according to Brown. However, for unemployed youth, the most effective approach is face-to-face training.
She says: "Virtual instructor-led training can also be used for individuals who are unable to attend the contact sessions in person. We recommend a blended solution that includes both virtual instructor-led and classroom-based training. Naturally, this depends on whether the learnership is being offered to employed or unemployed individuals, as well as the programme being presented. The main thing is to ensure that the learnership meets the stipulated regulations set down by the SETA regarding the notional hours required."
In the IT field, in particular, some learnerships are aligned to specific technologies and the curriculum allows the learner to sit the international exam of that specific vendor, with the resulting qualification being recognised worldwide.
Asked to list the main benefits that learnerships provide, Brown says: "In addition to providing the learners with a recognised qualification, workplace experience and access to industry-relevant programmes, the business itself benefits by meeting B-BBEE and scorecard imperatives along with the advantage of a tax incentive.
She adds: "By sending people on learnerships, the company is helping to create a skilled generation of employees within the business, while at the same time having a positive impact on the transformation of skills development and unemployment in SA."