SA business urged to turn around SA’s skill deficit

Learnerships raise the skills base in key economic sectors and reduce unemployment driven by a shortage of skills, yet many employers ignore them in spite of significant tax incentives.

Learnerships upskill staff that have either no experience or basic or intermediate experience in a particular area of work.

Philip Froom, CEO of Workforce Holdings Limited, says, “Employees receive both practical on the job as well as theoretical classroom training and become more knowledgeable and more accomplished in a specific area of the business. Employers obviously benefit from their employees enhanced technical expertise and skills.

“Companies implement learnerships to increase their Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) scorecard and tend to lose sight of the positive impact workplace learning has on their business. In addition, government introduced the learnership tax allowance for companies to help reduce the cost of training and provide a mechanism to upskill and train staff. This is a serious missed opportunity for SA and for these businesses to employ, develop and train talent at a very low cost.”

The learnership tax incentive is highest for learnerships completed in the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels 1 to 6. One NQF level 1-6 learnership allows a company to claim back R80 000 from its taxable income from SARS. Employers are further incentivised when disabled staff complete learnerships.

“Learnerships help to develop skills in each employer’s particular industry. These are the skills they will need as their businesses grow and growth is what SA’s economy needs,” says Froom.

“Learnerships are also funded for unemployed people allowing unemployed South Africans a chance to enter the workplace – a powerful intervention given our current unemployment statistics. Critically, learnerships benefit the poor who cannot afford the loss of income that would result in full-time studying. Workforce Holdings is able to support SA businesses to get the most effective outcomes in terms of trained staff and to be able to effectively assist companies to leverage all incentives offered resulting in very little cost to the employer.”

MD of Training Force, a Workforce Holdings company, Justin Hobday, says, “We see the positive effect of completed learnerships in the workplace. Learnerships involve a high portion of on-the-job training so work performance and productivity is not negatively impacted. As well as improved B-BBEE points and the learnership tax allowance, employers also benefit from increased loyalty as employees are less likely to leave a company that takes interest in their development and from improved productivity.

“A study has proven that 86% of learnership participants who completed their qualification experienced a smooth transition directly into stable employment and 90% reported that they were absorbed by the formal sector in large private and public companies.”

A learnership is a structured learning programme which includes theoretical and practical workplace experiential learning over a minimum of 12 months and which leads to an occupational related qualification registered on the NQF. An employee can go on to study towards a recognised post-school qualification.

Workforce Holdings’ training programmes are channelled through its specialist training companies, such as Training Force, which last year trained some 15 000 people across economic sectors including call centre, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, mining, hospitality, renewable energy and transport. Over 2 900 of these were trained through learnerships.