Funding > Employed & Unemployed

Employed & Unemployed

Range of learners

Learnerships will be undertaken by three kinds of learners:

  1. The currently employed
  2. The pre-employed
  3. The unemployed

The currently employed

Lack of education and training opportunities in the past have left their mark on many current employees. Deficits, particularly in language, math and science, mean that employees often find it difficult to understand and optimise modern production and information systems.

Many workers have already acquired competencies around the tasks they perform in their jobs, but have never had access to the knowledge base or general education relating to their areas of work, or to qualifications. The learnership system for employees must therefore play a redress function – using RPL, choice of standards, etc. as a starting point, rather than assuming total ignorance of learners. This will help the workers move faster within the system.

Globalisation and increased competition have resulted in changes that are leaving many employees feeling threatened and inadequate. Companies have responded to changes by reinventing or re-engineering themselves, leaving employees to adapt to these changes with little preparation or consideration. As a result, the implementation of their new strategy often falters.

Learnerships offer an opportunity for companies to help up-skill and refocus the efforts of employees. By coupling the concept of a “learning organisation” to learnerships, enterprises can assist in the development of the employees and in the achievement of their organisational objectives by using the opportunities presented by appropriate structured workplace-based learning programmes.

In these cases the Learnerships could both address gaps and deficits in the employees while providing the skills and knowledge required to adapt to new technologies, new opportunities and new challenges.

Learnerships can also be used to help prepare employees for a range of other situations:

  • Redeployment
  • Promotion
  • Succession planning
  • Affirmative action

The real opportunity for companies is to use Learnerships to link training to the NQF, while at the same time ensuring that the skills acquired assist the enterprise to thrive and grow.

The age profile of the current work force, particularly in industry, is weighted towards people from 45 years upwards. While learnerships in the short term may not appear to offer solutions, they will have a significant role to play in the development of human resources in the medium to long term.

Ultimately learnerships will form part of an enterprise’s strategic armoury. They can be used to speed up the entry process for new employees, assist to help develop the skills a company needs in adapting to changes and help employees gain formal recognition for the skills they have acquired in the workplace. Such formal qualifications may well become a requirement as quality assurance systems, such as the ISO 9000 series, become more stringent.

The pre-employed and unemployed

The Skills Development Act (No 97 of 1998) seeks to encourage companies to actively targeting the unemployed and pre-employed for learnerships.

Given the trends described above, it is unlikely that large numbers of the unemployed or pre-employed will find their way into these companies, either for work or for education and training opportunities. Where they do, there may be additional industrial relations complications as an older, largely under-educated workforce will perceive the new learners as a potential threat to their positions.

This is exacerbated by the recent culture of retrenchments. Current incumbents will be very wary of the position of these “outsiders” if there are further retrenchments. Responses could range from a lack of help to these learners to active opposition.

When designing learnerships for the unemployed and pre-employed within the formal employment environment, then, it is particularly important to highlight the following:

  • The aim of Learnerships is to transform learners into productive and independent workers who will be useful to employers and who are confident individuals
  • It is as important to learn about norms, values and attitudes required in a formal employment environment as it is to learn about occupational skills and knowledge
  • Workers that have broader knowledge of the occupation/industry/field are of greater benefit to the employer as this tends to advance innovations and productivity
  • It is important that Learnerships contribute to the production of useful members of society by including areas of learning that are of national significance
  • That each learnership contributes to a lifelong learning process

The pre-employed

The term “pre-employed” tends to refer to people who are probably young and relatively inexperienced and are trying to start their working lives. Given South Africa’s history, they are likely to be of the more recent generation for whom schooling has been accessible. Many are likely to have grown up in urban areas and have a grasp on some of the aspects of town and city life.

It is therefore important to include in these learnerships a component (possibly as life skills) about learning about work. There are many things that older, more experienced people have learned which could be taught more quickly and more consciously – particular with a view to making the learners more autonomous, confident employees and lifelong learners.

While it is not ideal for pre-employed people to try and become self-employed, given their lack of experience, learnerships in the voluntary sector can prove to be extremely productive.

The unemployed

Unlike the pre-employed, the unemployed have sometimes had work experience – even though it may not be directly relevant to the learnership in level or sector. It is important therefore that prior learning be recognised – be it experiential or formal – when deciding at what level to admit some unemployed people. Among this group there are people with very low level of formal education. While this does not imply that they are not competent in many ways, this would affect their ability to perform in some of the components of higher level learnerships.

As adults, many of the unemployed may have family and financial commitments which impact on their ability to undertake learnerships. This should be borne in mind when allowances are being allocated, immaterial of the level of the learnerships they are undertaking.

Some unemployed people may have had enough experience and confidence to become self-employed. It is important to include in their learnership programmes components on entrepreneurship, problem-solving etc. – and for SETAs to consider having a help facility that supports SMMEs and self-employed people in their sector.

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