Learnerships that lead to absorption:  The key to tackling youth unemployment

South Africa faces a complex jobs dilemma – a high unemployment rate, eye-wateringly so at around 70% among the youth, and at the same time, a shortage of skilled and qualified people to fill positions in many industries. Solving this dilemma requires tackling two of greatest challenges – a mismatch of skills between what is taught at higher and tertiary education level versus what is needed by industry, and a lack of practical, on-the-job work experience.  Employers want people to walk in with skills and knowledge and hit the ground running and be immediately productive. Young people need a practical learning ground to gain the prized on-the-job experience that employers seek. It’s a catch-22.

This is where learnerships play a pivotal role, and where your business can make a fundamental difference by investing into growing and developing the practical skills and theoretical knowledge needed in your business and industry, while radically changing the youth unemployment trajectory.

What is a learnership?

  • A learnership is a structured, work-based learning programme, typically over 12-24 months. The learner undergoes theoretical and on-the-job training, learning practical skills directly related to a specific occupation – from contact centre agent to debt collection, to IT support to sales and many more.
  • It leads to a registered qualification on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and is managed by the relevant SETA.

Learnerships make excellent business sense for the employer and learner. Here’s why:

  • Learnerships are developed by the industry – so the skills sets and outcomes are aligned to the requirements of the specific occupation and industry sector.
  • Customise the learnership to meet business objectives – With the right L&D partner, every learnership can be customised to the business strategy, as long as it meets the requirements of notional hours and formative and summative assessments. 
  • Qualifications are registered on the NQF – which results in a recognised qualification, which means improved standards, productivity and quality of work.
  • Tax Rebates and Employment Equity – Learnerships earn points on the BEE Scorecard under both Employment Equity and Skills Development and there is a SARS Tax Rebate if the learnership is a registered with the Department of Labour and the agreement is registered with the SETA.
  • Job prospects are imminently better for the learner, with sound theoretical and practical occupation-specific training backed by a nationally recognised qualification. Learnerships often result in permanent employment for the learner upon completion if they have performed well.

The end-goal is always permanent employment and absorption into the workplace

The key objective of learnerships must be gainful employment and career progression for the learner. It serves absolutely no purpose, and in fact only fuels misery and despondency, when young people become perpetual learners on one or other tick-box learnership programme, but do not then progress into gainful employment.

SA Business School is unrelenting in our drive, along with our corporate employer partners on the employment absorption front.  SA business School is part of the AlefBet Holdings Group which houses a diverse range of customer service and collections BPO businesses, and its through this network that we’re able to provide full-time employment opportunities for learners who successfully complete their learnerships sponsored by various corporate companies in South Africa.

One of the key factors that drive our success rate and the ability of learners to secure employment is that our learners are learning and working in a real-world work environment and getting on-the-job experience – with extensive support, mentoring and ongoing on-the-job training where we identify areas they may be struggling with. By the time they finish their learnership – they have a year of solid work experience on their CVs. This is invaluable not only in bringing experienced and confident young people into the workplace, but also ensuring that they are work-ready, immediately productive and able to progress in their careers and contribution to the business.

The success of this approach is evident in the absorption results. As just one example, between December 2023 to February 2024, SA Business School facilitated the placement of 208 disabled young South Africans into permanent jobs after completing learnerships in Contact Centre (NQF 2 and 4) as well as Business Administration (NQF 2).

A host of companies in the manufacturing, engineering, financial services, food and beverage and healthcare sectors worked with SA Business School, providing the funding for fully sponsored learnerships, including the costs of training and monthly learner stipends, for disabled youth aged 18 to 27.  The learnerships were delivered and conducted by and in SA Business School’s training centre which specifically caters for the safety, security, training and support required by disabled learners and employees.  The vast majority of the 208 permanent jobs were created within SA Business School’s partner network of debt collection, sales and customer service BPO providers.   

For the corporate sponsors of these learnerships, they’re able to invest in developing a skilled workforce for long-term employment, but also get to fully maximise the benefits of their BBBEE scorecard in terms of skills development. Most fundamentally, the success of this initiative in upskilling and training young South Africans, and then ensuring their placement in permanent jobs and opening up their career prospects, is fundamental to shaping societal outcomes for the better.

Choose the Right Learnership Training Provider for the Best Outcomes

The track record and integrity of the L&D training partner cannot be emphasised enough in helping to build this intentional learning pathway that aligns to your business strategy and objectives, and that is fully compliant with all the requirements of the SETA, SARS and labour. 

Here’s our list of important criteria to guide you in the process of selecting the best training provider for your learnership programme:

  • SETA and ETQA Accreditation – suitable training providers must be registered with and accredited by their relevant ETQA to provide training interventions and certify learner applicants that exit the learnership with an accredited NQF qualification.
  • Completion Rate – What is the training provider’s completion rate in terms of how many learners successfully complete the learnership programmes, and how many are absorbed into jobs upon completion? The SETAs call for 100% of projects to be completed by learners, 90% learner retention during the program, 80% of applicants to acquire national certification and that 70% find permanent positions with host employers.
  • Administration and Recording Systems – are there effective systems and processes to register every learner with the SETA, track learners’ progress, notional hours and on the job experience with structured monthly reporting. This is critical for learners to successfully exit the learnership and qualify, and for your business to claim all the relevant points and tax incentives. Make sure the training provider provides all the admin support, registration, monthly performance monitoring and verified paperwork so that your business can rightfully claim the BBBEE benefits and tax incentives.
  • Learner Selection Practices – how does the training provider recruit and ensure that the best learners who are committed to the process and opportunity are selected for the learnership opportunity?
  • Staff Expertise and Registration – the expertise and qualifications of the trainers and lecturers providing the training and mentorship as well as registration status are important.
  • Equipment and Workplace Experience Facilities – do they have formal, quality workplace experience facilities where learners will do their practical, on the job hours in a real work environment.
  • Outcomes-based Learning Material – is the learning material of high quality that supports andachieves the outcomes of the qualification?
  • Quality Management Systems – what assessment and moderation practices and Quality Management Systems and processes are in place?
  • Hybrid Learning Platforms – do they deliver in-person and online learner-centred education caters for a hybrid world of work? SA Business School has taken itslearnership programmes online, revolutionising the way that learnerships are delivered in a rapidly changing organisational training and education environment. 
  • Track Record – do they have a track record of supporting learners throughout the learnership with adequate resources, coaching, mentoring and management, as well as support in securing employment and absorption once completed?

SA Business School is a professional, accredited learning and development partner that brings a deep level of customisation and alignment of our learnership offerings to your business strategy and people development objectives.

Talk to SA Business School about aligning your learning and development strategy with your business strategy, ensuring that your learnership investment translates into a distinct competitive advantage for your business and your people. 

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