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The power of learnerships

Learnerships are powerful and effective; they offer a structured learning environment and formal assessment process that benefit South African business. Learnerships are implemented on-site with employers, towards a full qualification registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), through accredited private training providers.
These interventions have three specific pillars of implementation: theory classes, workplace experience and self-study. They also have three specific evidence categories: knowledge, repeatable skill, and reflection in regards to personal attitude. These pillars and criteria are compulsory for all learnerships, ensuring that all programmes are balanced, relevant and worthwhile.

The one unique advantage of learnerships is that they are work-based and delivered on-site, and are, therefore, expected to be designed within the context of the employer's organisational strategic objectives and goals, as well as the relevant sector and industry best practices and standards. All learning outcomes and assessment criteria can be, and should be, customised to this specific context. The ultimate objective of occupationally directed education, training and development is to create employable South Africans - those who contribute to the sustainability of their national economy, community and organisation with relevant and appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude.

Specific, focused and relevant staff empowerment

Consider the importance of context. A unit standard may require a learning outcome of making a cup of tea. In the context of a five-star restaurant, there is emphasis on the selection and presentation of the fine and delicate utensils, and the consideration of a variety of imported and local flavoured brews. In the context of temporary office on a construction site, there is emphasis on the selection and presentation of the sturdy and robust utensils, and the practicability of dry or refrigerated milk-based products. Organisations have the unique opportunity to host this specific, focused and relevant staff empowerment through learnerships.

Another unique advantage is that the NQF gives definitive bands and levels with associated outcome descriptors to ensure that the registered qualifications and unit standards have a national standard and expectation. For example, Grade 12 may be registered at NQF Level 4, but it falls in the General Education and Training band. Whereas the FET Certificate in Business Administration Services is also registered at NQF Level 4, but falls in the Further Education and Training band. These bands are important, and superimpose each other on the NQF.

An undeniable advantage for business

The Further Education and Training band from NQF Level 1 to NQF Level 5 is specifically focused on business skills, with qualifications created and designed by industry representatives and subject matter experts. These qualifications present learning outcomes and assessment criteria that are not presented in a normal schooling or higher education environment. To illustrate: a pass in Grade 12 translates into a pass in six subjects, such as geography and history. A competency in FETC Business Administration Services translates into having the ability to compile organisational policy and procedure documents and create a departmental budget. This is an undeniable advantage for business in South Africa.

The NQF level descriptors have been created to ensure that all South Africans at all levels in business have an opportunity to receive recognition and reward for their abilities. In a very small nutshell, NQF Level 2 in the FET Band expects learners to be able to work in business, with supervision. At NQF Level 3, without supervision. NQF Level 4 expects learners to be able to supervise their teams as they apply their knowledge and ability. These dissimilarities are critical in organisational consideration when identifying the right learner on the right learnership at the right time.

Accredited Private Training Providers offering full qualifications need to be accredited through various organisations, such as SETA, Umalusi and DoHET. Their organisational ethics, processes and sustainability is scrutinised and evaluated at every level, at least once a year. Their accreditation is also restricted and not a lifetime status. Further to this, it is compulsory that they appoint constituent assessors and moderators with a formal contract in the implementation of any formal assessment process. These practitioners only receive their constituent status for a particular qualification should they hold a qualification at a level higher in the same field and have a minimum of two years' work experience in the same field. Constituent assessors and moderators are not only subject matter experts, but are also occupationally directed education, training and development specialists.

To make learnerships even more valued in the short term for business:

  1. SETAs have funding available for members through the Skill Development Levies Act. The specifics of these funding windows are SETA specific.
  2. SETAs also have discretionary grants available on application should the member qualify. The different SETAs can use their discretion when allocating and dispersing these grants, and usually focus on funding learnerships that meet their National Skills Development Strategies targets, such as for Scarce Skills or Employment Equity.
  3. Learnerships score points on the BEE Scorecard under both Employment Equity and Skills Development. Each element is worth a maximum of 15 points each.
  4. There is the SARS tax rebate under Section 12H of the Income Tax Act if the learnership is a registered learnership with the DoL and the agreements are formally registered with the SETA. This tax rebate is calculated per learner, with an annual allowance per year of the learnership or pro rata for the portion thereof, and on another allowance on completion of the learnership. This could translate into a R100 000 tax rebate per disabled learner on a one-year learnership.

In the long term, South African businesses have so many advantages from hosting learnerships:

  • Increased productivity amongst skilled staff
  • Increased relevant skill base and talent pool
  • Rewarded and recognised staff that make a difference in the organisation
  • Facilitated loyalty and respect

In conclusion, learnerships are powerful and effective and extremely worthwhile.

About the author

Janessa Leita is the CEO of Siyanqoba Private FET College.