What is a Learnership?

June 2015

Much “hoopla” exists at the moment around the new B-BBEE codes and the many and varied implications for small and big businesses. There has been much frustration and many questions raised as to the efficacy of B-BBEE in general in response to these new codes. However, when it comes to the true spirit of the B-BBEE codes, it is important to remember why they were instituted in the first place – it was all about effecting change and Transformation, which in reality is still very much needed in our turbulent, adolescent economy.

B-BBEE: a catalyst for Transformation
When looking specifically at the Skills Development element of both the new and old B-BBEE codes, it is clear that the aim of this element or pillar in particular is to encourage corporate South Africa to allow people access to skills, qualifications and ultimately economic and social upliftment. Skills Development as both an Act and a B-BBEE element is effectively trying to make the old adage of ‘give a man a fish and he eats for a day but teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime’ become a reality.

Learnerships, Apprenticeships and Internships are skills programmes that are specifically mentioned within the new B-BBEE codes. These programmes have existed for nearly twenty years already but we still encounter clients and companies who do not understand the essence and practicalities of what these programmes are all about.

In this opinion piece, the Business Development Team at Progression aims to clearly define and explain what these kinds of Skills Programmes are, starting off with learnerships

What is a Learnership?
A learnership is an accredited training programme that runs for a minimum of 12 months and ends in the learner achieving a qualification after the completion of the programme. A learnership is most effective when the learner's training and/or qualification stream is directly related to the requirements of their job.

Learners as well as other key players and stakeholders play a significant role within any learnership programme. There can be many stakeholders involved in a learnership namely, the learner, the employer, the training provider, the SETA, and the project manager. Under the employer’s banner there could sit even more key players such as a project champion (someone to drive the Transformation agenda of the learnership) as well as a manager or mentor (someone to give the learner practical on the job training and guidance).

Legislative requirements such as the Skills Development Act and the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice drive companies to implement learnerships, however additional benefits such as tax incentives and SETA grants can be incentives as well.

Learnerships grow dedicated workforces
Learnerships are of course a sure way to improve on B-BBEE compliance, but for companies in which permanent recruitment is not always the answer to a vacant position, a learnership might just fill that gap. Depending on the requirements and the level of the position, a learner can be a valuable asset to the business for anything between one to three years. Why not use learnerships as an interviewing and grooming process? Give someone with talent and the right attitude a chance, get them qualified, get them exposed to your business, allow them to gain as much tacit and explicit knowledge as they can and at the end of their qualification employ them as loyal, well rounded, informed employees. Learnerships can afford you the opportunity to create your own pipeline of experienced and qualified staff for you to pick and choose from.

Requirements for a Learnership
You don’t have to be in a specific industry or environment to run a learnership either. Any company in any industry can benefit from the multitude of either generic or skill-specific learnerships available. Both unemployed and employed people can be considered as learners. When looking at currently employed candidates, companies should consider the employee's strengths and skill sets, what their career plan is, and what the company’s succession or promotion plan is for them, and then select the right learnership programme that would help solidify their work experience into this kind of formal qualification.

For those who are unemployed, the main factors in assessing whether the individual is right for the learnership is whether the person meets the entry level requirements and whether or not they are willing to put in the effort and commit to completing the qualification successfully.

Let the experts show you how
The next question might be, "So where do I find unemployed individuals to place onto learnerships?". Well that’s where Progression comes in! We can help you find the right candidates and the right learnerships! All of this should and will bring the maximum benefit to your business, its people and its bottom line.

Progression can also assist in:

  • Understanding exactly who you have on your books – who are your employees in terms of Employment Equity, what skills do they have and where are the gaps (Employment Equity, Disability and Skills Audit)
  • Recruiting people with and without disabilities to place into permanent positions
  • Advising on and project managing the training for current employees
  • Providing advice to clients on what to spend and how to make that spend work for them from a compliance perspective.

Businesses should never implement a learnership for the sake of it! Careful consideration and effective planning and career-pathing should accompany any learnership plan.

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