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What are the options for school leavers?

There are various opportunities, from finding a job to enrolling for university studies or workplace apprenticeships, applying for a learnership programme and entrepreneurship.

Johannesburg, 26 Jul 2019
Read time 8min 10sec
Carien Oosthuizen, Recruitment and Alumni Manager, CTU Training Solutions.
Carien Oosthuizen, Recruitment and Alumni Manager, CTU Training Solutions.

Obtaining a matric pass with a university entrance, which requires an achievement rating of between 50% and 59% or better in at least four subjects, is one of the primary goals of secondary education. But not everyone obtains a university entrance. This leaves them with a basic matric qualification. What opportunities are there for these matriculants, and what paths can they follow to create careers for themselves? Carien Oosthuizen, Recruitment and Alumni Manager at CTU Training Solutions, considers some of the avenues open to these school leavers.

Oosthuizen says: “One of the first options for matriculants who don’t have university entrance is to go straight into the job market. There are several immediate advantages to this, one of them being that money starts flowing in quickly, and there is no need to go into debt in order to study further.”

However, finding a job straight out of school can be a tough undertaking. The current job scenario in SA is not good for school leavers, given the high unemployment rate in this segment of the population. Statistics SA put the unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 24 at 55.2% in the first quarter of 2019.

In addition, where there are jobs available, prospective employers generally demand a certain amount of experience, which school leavers obviously lack. “For these reasons, we need to look at other options for matriculants, to make them more attractive to employers,” says Oosthuizen.

Tertiary education options abound

There are many further study options open to matriculants who don’t have a university entrance. “When choosing a tertiary education route, the first step is to decide on your desired vocation. This will determine what type of institute to study at, or whether to take a different approach,” she advises.

Another option is to learn a trade and take courses at a technical institute like Durnacol Skills Hub. These are often linked to real-world work experience programmes, which can lead to employment once the necessary certification is obtained. There are also workplace apprenticeships in which a school leaver can enrol; these may provide them with the advantage of generating income while simultaneously learning a trade.

Another way to get a qualification is to apply for a learnership. A learnership is a programme that includes spending time learning theory and practical skills in the workplace in order to obtain a registered qualification on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

Learnerships are generally made up of 1 200 ‘notional’ learning hours (or 120 credits).

Students are required to enter into legally binding agreements when starting a learnership programme. The agreement binds the learner, employer and training provider, and outlines the tasks and responsibilities of each party. Learnerships are sponsored by some of the biggest companies in SA to develop youth between the ages of 18 and 35.

There is a further option for school leavers, one that is taking on ever-increasing importance in the context of SA as a developing country. With its relatively slow economic growth and high unemployment rate, the South African economy needs as much stimulus as possible. One of the most important drivers of this is entrepreneurship, with its ability to create jobs, generate taxable income and provide growth.

Where to from here?

Choosing the right career is no easy task, but learnership programmes can offer a sense of direction. A learnership is a work-based programme where you can study and train for the job you want while gaining valuable on-the-job experience. Most people find that applying theoretical knowledge in the workplace is the best way to gain new skills. Learnership programmes are great for anyone interested in securing their future and getting a job to eventually reach their goals.

There are three things that school leavers can do to help them choose the right career and learnership for them:

1. Learn more about yourself

If you don’t already know what kind of industry you’re interested in working in, this is a great first step. Even if you have a certificate or diploma, taking the time to learn your strengths and work preferences is helpful. The goal in any career is to enjoy it as much as possible for as long as possible.

A common way to learn about yourself and your career and workplace preferences is to take online self-assessments. There are tons of free online assessments you can use, and many go into very detailed information. You may be surprised by what you learn.

2. Research your industries

Once you have gained some solid information on your personality and preferences, you should be able to build a list of ideal industries and maybe even positions that would work for you.

Take that list and start researching. You can make 'pros' and 'cons' lists for each position you are interested in and try to whittle down your list to a few of your top choices.

3. Find a mentor

Now that you have an idea of which industries you think you’d be happy working in, you can find a mentor who already has your ideal job title. You can find someone through social media or industry-specific networking sites.

Building a relationship with a mentor in your desired industry and interviewing them is a great way to gain a personal view of what your work day will be like.

Why a learnership?

The purpose of a learnership is that students can practise the daily activities of an occupation, guided by a qualified and experienced person.

Students are taught how and why certain tasks are done and are provided with the theoretical knowledge to back it up. Before a student becomes qualified, they have to undergo an assessment in line with occupational standards.

Students are paid a stipend to assist them with transport costs to and from the training centre, as well as the workplace, for the duration of the learnership. A learnership will not cost you anything but your time and commitment.

How to find a learnership

1. If you want to be on a programme at a particular company, contact the HR department at a company you would like to work for and ask whether they have a learnership / apprenticeship programme that you can apply for.

2. Contact a SETA directly:

a) Identify two or three qualifications you want to pursue.

b) Contact the relevant SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) and ask to be put through to the Learnerships department.

c) Enquire about who is recruiting for these learnerships. SETA websites can also be very useful.

3. You can also contact training companies directly for learnership opportunities or send your CV to their recruitment department and ask to be registered on their database for future learnership opportunities.

4. Job portals are also a valuable source of information for available learnerships.

How are learnerships funded?

Funded learnerships are funded by a SETA where the company is registered and has applied for funding, while unfunded learnerships are self-funded by a private company. With funded learnerships, SETAs will advise when funding is available, while with unfunded learnerships, the company needs to send a letter of intent to the SETA it is registered with, indicating when it would like to run the learnership, the programme that it intends to run and the number of learners it would like to host.

SETAs advertise in national newspapers and on websites. They also send e-mails to companies that submit a Workplace Skills Plan or participate in other projects with them. In most instances, SETAs indicate programmes and NQF levels that address skills shortages at that time.

Companies wanting to engage in learnerships must ensure that their Workplace Skills Plan includes the learnerships they want to host, as well as the scarce and critical skills being addressed. When asked for funding, certain SETAs consider whether the applicant has identified critical or scarce skills in their proposed learnership plan.

When companies submit their Workplace Skills Plans, some SETAs expect them to submit the learnership funding request at the same time, as these run concurrently. Certain SETAs’ funding windows open after submission of a Workplace Skills Plan, while others open twice a year. Companies must know which model their SETA follows so that they can prepare properly.

Regardless of whether the learnership is funded or unfunded, companies can claim Company Tax rebates at the beginning and end of the learnership. This is subject to the registration of the learners at the SETA and the completion of the learnerships by these learners. It is also pro-rated according to the tax year. In order to claim the tax rebate from the SA Revenue Service, the company must have a form from the SETA stating each learner’s registration and progress/completion.

Scarce skills

While in-demand skills change and evolve over time, below is a list of skills that are currently in demand in SA:

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