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Are learnerships the solution to skills shortage in South Africa?

 We often equate unemployment with a lack of available jobs but one of the key issues at the heart of unemployment in South Africa is an inadequately educated workforce.  Statistics South Africa recently revealed that 27.7% of the South African population is unemployed with 54.3% of that being the youth. Skills shortages have been identified as one of the main factors in unemployment rates and there is a general consensus that South Africa needs to increase the overall skill level of our entire population.

To achieve the right skill level, a multi-level skills strategy is required, this being that more individuals should have qualifications at higher levels. However, at each level of the workforce, new skill sets are required for technological advancement and moving the economy as a whole to higher levels of development. What is equally important is whether learnerships and apprenticeships are developing these skill sets and capabilities.

A tracer study conducted by Kruss et al (2014), has shown that the majority of apprenticeship and learnership participants, 70% and 86% respectively, who completed their qualification experienced a smooth transition directly into stable employment. 90% of learners who completed a learnership reported that they were offered permanent employment afterwards and most candidates entered the formal sector in large private firms or were employed by the public sector. More than 50% of the candidates were employed at the same workplace that they completed their experiential training in. The study concluded on aggregate that participation in both learnerships and apprenticeships decreased the unemployment rate of young participants, however it was the learnership programmes that had the greatest impact as it better prepared individuals for the working world.

Based on the study by Kruss et al (2014), It can be reasoned that there is great value in extending the scale of learnerships and apprenticeships in organisations to reduce the skills gap and talent shortage in South Africa. Government has recognised the role learnerships play in creating employment opportunities and have recently extended the learnership and apprenticeship tax allowance benefit to businesses. The aim of the learnership tax allowance is to help businesses reduce the cost of training.