Underpinning the system of learnerships are the following principles:
Co-operation and partnerships: The South African system presently puts responsibility for training in fragmented and diverse structures. Theoretical education is seen as the sole domain of the Education Institutions, while skills' training is shared between the Department of Education, Department of Labour, industry, private centres and some NGOs. This fragmentation has resulted in numerous problems, including theoretical curricula that lag behind the needs of the industry; industrial training that is frequently divorced from theory; and community training programmes that do not provide progression opportunities and are not recognised by government and industry.
Diversification: Traditional apprenticeships tend to be limited to blue-collar trades such as fitters, electricians, boilermakers or hairdressers and exclude sectors such as sport, arts and welfare and a wide range of service/sectors which are likely to expand rapidly, judging by international trends. Diversification means that learnerships will have to address the needs of large as well as small employers in each economic sector, and will have to be extended to include all sectors.
Increased participation: There is and urgent need to encourage more participation in training as a recognisable and credible form of learning. To do this, it will first and foremost be necessary to demonstrate a real link to employment or self-employment after qualification.
It is also necessary to make it more acceptable to learners to participate in training by ensuring that learnerships are both valuable in themselves and constitute an alternative route to the professions. Furthermore, learnerships need to be made available to a larger number of people at a more diversified range of learning sites.
Demand-led learnerships: Learnerships must be responsive to an economic or social need. Learnerships that are designed to serve such needs are more likely lead to employment or productivity enhancement that are those designed in abstract. Learnerships that are tied to economic growth or social development plans are not only more likely to lead to employment, but may also catalyse it.
Variety of employment context: Current apprenticeships are designed with an exclusive focus on technical skills and the work experience component assumes a single employer placement for full range of work experience. The assumption has contributed to the decline of apprenticeships, as the number of firms willing or able to enter a full contract is limited.
They must therefore enable learners to acquire work experience in a variety of ways. For example through: Rotation across groups of SMME's, Job creation programmes, Service programmes, Government departments. Learnerships must also be designed to encourage the inclusion of business skills and other issues of national importance.
Integration of education and training: Learning needs to be articulated in a continuum of opportunities that ensure that the relevant education and training are combined appropriately in learning and assessment.
Life-long learning: A principle that is concerned with the continual improvement of learning and skills acquisition to meet the demands of the economy, social development, as well as the needs of individuals.
Quality: Learning programmes must be of a high standard and be continuously improved and updated.
Efficiency and sustainability: Learning programmes must be cost-effective. This requires improved management, better qualified Education Training and Development Practitioners, and clearly articulated performance indicators. The financial policies should ensure that programmes can be sustained.
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