Unemployment is a massive challenge that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. Predictions are that 35% of South Africans won’t have jobs by December. This only accounts for people who are actively looking for jobs. The number of unemployed who’ve given up looking for work is much higher.
Rajan Naidoo, the Director of EduPower Skills Academy, says the reasons for this are varied. The majority of school leavers and youth in general are unemployed or unemployable. Many youth lack the relevant skills to be effective in the workplace and employers are often reluctant to take on inexperienced and poorly skilled youth.
Good for Business
For many years, the government has been attempting to redress unemployment through the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) codes. “To encourage companies to participate in much needed B-BBEE aligned Skills Development, there are a variety of tax incentives, allowances and rebates available,” says Rajan. “Skills Development can however deliver more than just the 25 points available for B-BBEE ratings. Companies that plan their skills programmes strategically can also build an effective talent pipeline.”
Providing the right skills is fundamental to young people’s ability to compete for quality jobs and Rajan believes that learnership programmes are the ideal vehicle for this. “Learnerships are a holistic solution that provide a blend of theory and practical experience over a 12 month period, resulting in an accredited qualification and marketable skills that actively increase the opportunities for our youth and the unemployed to succeed in transitioning into employment.”
An effective tool to develop work competence, learnerships equip participants with life and work readiness skills relevant to a specific occupation. Coupled with the fact that candidates entering the progammes earn while they learn, learnerships have become a popular choice for those people who do not have the option to enter tertiary education.
“An example of an occupation focused learnership is EduPower’s flagship Contact Centre model, a fully hosted SETA accredited learnership that combines classroom training and a deliberate focus on practical experience. Our learners work an eight-hour day, five days a week in a custom-built contact centre where they receive ongoing mentoring and support as they work on live campaigns, not simulations,” says Rajan.
While theoretical training and on-the-job experience are critical components of learnerships, the development of soft skills are also a key focus. Rajan explains “Most learners have either just completed school or have been unemployed and they haven’t had the opportunity to learn practical, interpersonal skills such as communication, teamwork or problem solving. Learnerships work on developing these skills so that upon completion, candidates are prepared for the world of work.”
Private sector job creation cannot keep pace with the demand for jobs. Rajan believes that the only answer for our youth is to create strong entrepreneurs. Unique in its approach, EduPower offers an entrepreneurship programme that helps its learners identify business opportunities and grow their business skills.
“Our incubator eliminates many of the traditional costs related to running a company and greatly increases the entrepreneur’s chances of survival and sustainability beyond the programme,” Rajan explains.
The point of learnerships is to improve employability and each programme begins with the end in mind – building skills that lead to sustainable career opportunities. While some companies use their learnerships as a 12-month screening process to recruit for their talent pipeline, the majority of learnership graduates re-enter the job market. “We do our best to help our learners secure employment either through our incubator or our network of partner companies. We place as many people as possible as it not only unlocks five bonus points for absorption for our clients, it’s also important to us to close the loop for our learners,” he says.
Rajan concludes by saying that through increased access to the training of portable skills, learnerships are part of the solution to rectifying socio-economic inequalities by bolstering employment opportunities and in so doing, increase employability and economic growth. Skills development is the critical first step ensuring that South Africa is built on a solid and sustainable foundation.