More than ever, the expectation and demand on both the public and private sectors is evident as thousands of youth enter the labour market year on year. Progress is being made surrounding public-private partnerships; some sectors deploying radical initiatives regarding youth development and employment, the launching of the presidents’ Y.E.S initiative as well as amendments to our B-BBEE codes – but is this enough? What more can be done?
Focus should be placed on Work-Integrated Learning (WIL), which according to the South African Qualifications Authority is defined as “an educational approach that aligns occupational learning and workplace practices for the mutual benefit of learners and workplaces.” WIL should however be appropriate for the learning intervention (qualification) concerned, which implies that demonstrably a learner should be able to contextually apply their learning within a workplace that supports the outcomes of the learning intervention linked to the specific industry.
As industry, we are clear on our expectations regarding the skills a learner should posess when entering the labour market. We need to ask ourselves whether the very skills we look for (apart from academic criteria) is sufficiently developed at foundational schooling level and beyond to ensure a learner is in fact work-ready. Incorporating relevant skills such as self-awareness, team work, communication skills, problem-solving and use of technology is but a few of the skills which builds not only learner confidence but the ability to transition into a place of work resulting in a greater success rate for both the (potential) employer and learner.
Three stakeholders are required to ensure the effectiveness of WIL: the workplace, the institution/training partner and the learner. At Omni HR Consulting, we agree with this approach and aligned our work-integrated learning model to support learners to be work-ready and employable at the end of their qualification. Our research and experience shows that for work-integrated learning to be successful;
It must form part of the learning framework at the onset of engagement and form an integral thread throughout the learning phase to ensure the learner work-readiness after the qualification.
It must meet the quality assurance and compliance requirements for accredited learning to ensure alignments between learner attributes and the skills required within the workplace.
It must extend beyond the classroom, thereby placing collective ownership on all stakeholders, including government, workplaces and industry bodies to create work placement opportunities and gainful employment.
Work-Integrated Learning is not the sole responsibility of the learning institution but rather a collective effort of all stakeholders, as seen in figure 1. Active engagement and participation of the learner, client and quality partner is required for successful implementation.