Organisations have raised interesting questions regarding how to structure financial benefits for unemployed youth on learnerships.
Companies who absorb unemployed youth are awarded BEE points, rebates and can be refunded all stipends paid to learnership candidates.
The benefits exist in order to persuade companies to create opportunity for the unemployed.
We want to treat our learners right, what can we do?
Assume they have nothing, and come from nothing that conforms to your perception of ‘something.’
Ask these questions:
- What will it take for learners to fit into and be groomed for our organisational dress code? Work out the cost of a basic wardrobe, give half to them before the programme begins, the other half with their first month pay.
- How will they get to work before they have earned? Provide a transport subsidy at the beginning of the first month.
- Am I going to punish these candidates and exploit them for being poor or is my system designed to advance their career opportunities and effectively direct their labour within the organisation?
- What can we do for them?
- Give them a mentor who can advise about corporate culture without being bossy
- Speak to them about grooming, hairstyles and accessories (if your organisation is conservative, let them know in advance. Try not to be fascist, k…)
- Ask them
- If you’re the employer, you’re paying for labour. The stipend is not a charitable handout, it’s a business exchange.
- The SETA hasn’t paid you, now you don’t have money to pay the learners? Unacceptable. If you don’t have the resources to fulfill your legal obligations to these learners then you don’t belong in this space.
- Why pay below R4k? You can get it back!
Much is said about youth believing they ‘feel entitled.’ If you are of this belief, please hire me for a workshop and let’s remove limited thinking. You will never be able to tap into what youth offer organisations if this perception continues.
Youth simply plead for decent financial benefits in exchange for their labour and commitment to study. Bearing in mind the unemployed are usually also poor, stipends below R4k in an urban environment are not pro-poor.
I assume an argument can be made for lower stipends in rural areas but I don’t like to make it now as I haven’t checked the data for this specific context.
What’s too low?
Let’s simplify a policy framework by defining all youth as orphans. Now be rational in terms of who your target market is and if your low will meet their needs.
Many youth support a household once they’ve secured an opportunity, they have no choice in this. Employers must understand the difficulties they create for youth when making the assumption they can be paid low because they have a supportive family.
If learnerships are not for trust fund kids, why do we expect poor and vulnerable youth to have the means to support themselves on an income below R4k per month?
Now you may argue, ‘well then we can’t afford to do this!’
There are many ways to design an intervention to make it pro-poor without onerous cost impacts. If you don’t know how to figure these out, perhaps you’re ready for an expert like me?! People, pro-poor and profits can co-exist if the will is present.
When low can ‘sort of’ be justified
- The employer and training provider are the same
- The employer operates close to the residential area they recruit from so there’s no transport costs
- The learner negotiates less time
- The learner can afford the opportunity without compromising their well-being
- The employer is a small local business and can provide a great experience, but can’t pay much
- The opportunity doesn’t require relocation
Hopefully these points give training providers and employers a few ideas about managing and establishing an effective policy for stipends.