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Do Learnerships and Apprenticeships Lead to Employment?

There may be a global recession and work opportunities remain scarce for many people, but there are some who find success and increased opportunity as a result of training.

Learnerships and Apprenticeships have much to offer

 Learnerships and apprenticeships do not appear to be slow boats to nowhere. Evidence suggests that there have been significant benefits and that opportunities should be increased in order to attract more people.

The South African government has initiated many skills development opportunities in order to address unemployment and skills shortages in various sectors . The learnership and apprenticeship (‘ship) systems are showing gains even though we find ourselves in a challenged global economic context.

Kruss et al (2014) conducted a tracer study of graduates who had completed their ‘ship qualifications in order to determine if they had difficulty being absorbed by the labour market.

Was it hard for learners to find work?

Researchers found that 70% of apprenticeship and 86% of learnership participants who completed their qualification “experienced a smooth transition directly into stable employment”.

90% of those who completed a learnership reported that they were employed in permanent positions. Most were absorbed by the formal sector in large private firms or by the public sector. Learnerships combine theoretical and on-the-job practice, or experiential learning (gaining experience). More than half became employed at the same workplace as their experiential training.

Those who participated in apprenticeships and learnerships increased their chances of employment further than those with only one form of qualification.

The Learnership Benefit

Although the findings indicate that learnerships show a more significant impact than apprenticeships, both are responsible for increasing the employability of those Learners enrolled as 18.2 candidates (they were unemployed when they registered for the program).

This means that participants in learnerships and apprenticeships have substantially increased their chances of employment when compared to the rest of the unemployed in South Africa.

What about those who went to Further Education and Training Colleges?

The FET domain is one that requires robust invigoration and stimulation. Struggling to forge engagement with industry, their contribution to success in the field of occupational training remains debatable.

We find low formal employment rates (48% recorded in 2009) amongst those candidates graduating from FET colleges. (Gewer 2010 cited in Kruss et al). Perhaps they should strengthen and improve their pedagogy and create a campus based function similar to an employment agency.

2017 update – DHET has channeled more funds to the FET sector and has started limiting access to funds for business interventions. We’ll have to watch what happens with Business Union South Africa and their actions against this decision. 

Learnerships and Apprenticeships get Respect

During a coaching session with Live Event Technical Production students about to complete their learnership in Durban, I was asked ‘Are learnerships just for black people?’ Someone else added, ‘will people respect us for doing this?’

It led to an interesting discussion about population demographics, quotas and public perceptions. It was a conversation that made a deep impression upon me because I hadn’t previously considered these implications. It hadn’t occurred to me that learners could consider something strategically targeting a predominantly black population as second rate. This sentiment may be widespread and it’s very unfair and extremely incorrect.

The NQF is a policy framework, something fought for during the Struggle to end apartheid. A dumbed down intervention, not a chance!

Our skills development strategy is one which South Africans can be immensely proud of as it considers market needs, opportunity and potential. It’s a way of trying to address previous forms of economic marginalisation imposed upon people and to prevent similar forms of ostracisation from reoccurring.

Learnerships and Apprenticeships, whilst different to traditional programs, are not cheap training interventions only targeting the poor. These programs are specifically structured to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. If South Africa is to destroy poverty we must expose people to as many different types of education and training opportunities as possible in order to create a competitive growing, learning economy.

Access to education and training cannot be achieved if there is a financial barrier, especially for those still suffering the severe impact of apartheid policies. If we price all training at the university rate, we would limit our economic growth and inhibit innovation and competition.

Those who cannot compete to enter traditional tertiary opportunities, can use learnerships and apprenticeships in order to improve their skills and engage with a formal labour network.

I say ‘engage with a formal network’ as my experience is that many unemployed South Africans mostly know other unemployed people. This means that for some, when they enter this formal environment for the first time, they have little or no realistic grasp of what being an employee (even if in training) entails.

These interventions are therefore vital, especially for the youth.

Occupational Training Value for the Youth and Unemployed

Learnerships and apprenticeships offer a variety of career pathways from media to design, from agriculture to construction, from business to banking. (And more!) Learnerships have shown such success amongst the unemployed (18.2) candidates, that there is now a trend to target employees in order to encourage career mobility which in turn fuels economic growth.

The benefits of this training is evidence of how much more can be achieved if we increase the number of learnerships and apprenticeships and accommodate a larger portion of youth.

Need to Increase ‘Ship Opportunities

  • Learnerships currently cater for a total enrollment ranging from between 44 000 (2010) to 55 000 (2005) learners.
  • Apprenticeships are less, catering for about 9 000 to 12 000 new learners per year.

The total annual registration for ‘ships are small when compared with the enrollment at public higher education institutions (approximately 840 000 for the same year).

These numbers emphasize how small the learnership and apprenticeship system is when compared to the massive demand from young adults, particularly new market entrants,  for training and certification to bridge the labour market barrier.

#KeepClimbing! ► ► ► 2min vid: How to Select a Learnership http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpkVZOGTnQ4

Reference: G. Kruss et al: Learnerships and apprenticeships: Key mechanisms for skills development and capability building in South Africa. 2014

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Comments (17)

  1. Researchers found that 70% of apprenticeship and 86% of learnership participants who completed their qualification “experienced a smooth transition directly into stable employment”.

    Based on the statement above, what is that total pool of people that participated in this research to reach this conclusion. With the country’s youth unemployment sitting at over 50%, where is this “smooth transition directly into stable employment happening?

    1. Very good questions! You can download the article referenced and see how what the extent of their research was. Not all the unemployed youth have participated in these interventions, the stats quoted would thus apply to those who did.
      Employment would be a logical assumption but in my own opinion, if it is / was that high, I’m surprised more providers aren’t bragging about their results and that more tracer studies aren’t being published to attest to this.

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