Empowering the youth through on-the-job learning and development is one way of moving South Africa’s young folk to the centre of the country’s economic ecosystem.
With youth unemployment at 35.5 percent for young people between the ages of 25-34, and the announcement last week that South Africa’s economy contracted by 2.2 percent for the first quarter of 2018, a serious intervention is necessary.
While addressing the scourge of unemployment is complex, it starts with upskilling the youth through vocational training programmes. As the country observes Youth Month this June, Richard Rayne, CEO of iLearn says “it pains me that millions of young folk remain unemployed 24-years into the country’s democracy”. As a leading South African learning solutions-based business, iLearn offers accredited and non-accredited learning programmes and digital learning solutions to address skills shortages in organisations.
“Considering the alarming levels of unemployment in our country, we need to work night and day to lift our youth from the clutches of joblessness and the only way we can do that is by training them in areas where it’s most needed,” Rayne says.
Rayne says combating unemployment requires a collaborative effort and a 100 percent commitment from public and private sector organisations. He says it starts with rolling-out Learnerships that focus on areas of national significance, and benefits the learner and the organisation. A Learnership is a vocational training programme that links structured learning and work experience to obtain a registered qualification. It combines workplace practice into a qualification registered by the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).
To demonstrate its commitment to reducing the youth unemployment in the country, iLearn has partnered with Adept – specialists in ICT solutions - to support six unemployed young learners, including two disabled learners on a 12-month Blended IT Technical Support Learnership – iLearn’s new forward-thinking NQF Level 4 programme.
The Learnership, hosted in partnership with the University of the Western Cape (UWC), will kill two birds with one stone: create an appropriately trained recruitment pool of potential employees in this industry and meet the institution’s employment equity objectives. According to Nina Barnes, Manager: Staff and Organisational Development at UWC’s Human Resources Department, while not all learners will be placed in permanent employment positions after the training, it provides them with the stepping-stone they need to obtain a qualification and equip them with the necessary skills to start their careers.
“This Learnership allows for direct alignment of our people framework, which encourages a supportive work environment and a resilient institutional culture that embraces diversity and inclusivity, enabling our institution to rise to the contextual challenges in support of our mission and strategic goals,” Barnes says.
Learner Nikelwa Dasoyi adds “This programme has forever changed my life. I am a step closer to realising my dream of working in IT. I am excited to further my education and I believe education empowers people on both an academic and personal level. Through it we truly can conquer mountains”.
Adept’s HR Manager, Paola van Eeden, says the business is thrilled with the partnership and the positive effect the Learnership will have on learners’ lives. She says it will also assist her organisation to address a lack of in-house skills and boost its talent pipeline. The programme provides the foundation learners will need to start their careers in this field and keep up with an evolving digital world.
Ongoing learning is of critical importance to Adept and Van Eeden says this Learnership will give candidates the opportunity to further their knowledge in the field, help the organisation address a specific lack of internal skills and provide them with an opportunity to further its community education goals.
“Furthering knowledge in this field will be a boon for both future job applicants and existing employers. It also raises the bar for our employee calibre and keeps our people at the cutting edge of this industry. This is the kind of intervention our youth need,” she says.
The Learnership programme was developed in South Africa as a modern way to advance apprenticeships to meet the modern demands of the workplace. Learnerships also manage to formalise the learning and workplace experience - which is usually sadly lacking in internships offered by companies.
Another significant benefit of Learnerships over internships is that Learnerships come with a formal pay structure where learners will be paid a monthly stipend, or payment, for the time they are on the Learnership. Also, internships do not have a learning component, while Learnerships are all linked directly to a formal qualification.