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Learnerships are key to addressing SA’s skills shortage

Vanessa Gibb

SA's skills shortage, which mirrors a similar global trend, requires a proactive approach. Learnerships present a clear and practical solution to the problem. The programmes offer an efficient way of identifying and recruiting new people into your business, enabling employers to train on the job and help individuals develop industry-specific skills and general work readiness. A key benefit of learnership programmes is the potential to diversify the workforce, offering learnerships to school leavers who may not have access to tertiary education.

One of the main aims of the Skills Development Act is "to provide learnerships that lead to recognised occupational qualifications". In line with this, a learnership must:

  • Consist of s formal learning or theory component and a practical work component, and
  • Culminate in the achievement of a qualification from a sector education and training authority (SETA).

Because of the rigidity of the theory aspect and how the qualification level is met, most companies wishing to take on learners do so through a training provider who is registered to run the learnership of their choice. These tend to be 12-month programmes which are formally assessed and moderated.

The programme should fit into a cultural drive of learning

There needs to be buy-in from other members of staff – people who are able to play a mentorship role to these youngsters. Mentors need to be informed up front exactly what is required of them and how much is involved in the role.

Every company plays a part in addressing the skills shortage, and learnerships are important to skills development in South Africa. Businesses that invest in high quality training, which assists individuals create their own career path, will enjoy advantages such as increased productivity and a more developed skills base.

Vanessa Gibb is the HR manager at NATIVE VML.