If hindsight about Covid-19 has taught Corporate South Africa anything, it’s that the future of our economy relies on having a skilled, resilient and agile workforce. That’s why investing in skills development – in the form of learnerships and workplace readiness – is so crucial. Continuous skills development keeps the pipeline of work-ready talent flowing, which will push business forward in the longer term. But it has benefits for the employed person, too, who will consistently keep growing and developing within their role, which can ultimately change their life.
So, what’s the difference between a learnership and a work-readiness programme?
“Having skills doesn’t make you employable,” says Michelina De Benedictis, Chief Visionary Officer of Grow Right Edge Solutions, a Johannesburg-based training and development company that specialises in empowering the workforce of the future.
“A learnership will give a candidate fundamental skills in the specific sector they, and the company they’re doing the learnership with, work in,” she explains. “A work-readiness programme gives individuals more personal mastery and career guidance-type learning – things like personal growth factors, primary strengths and challenges, understanding how to deal with conflict, anxiety and stress management, avoidances and inner conflicts, relationship and career insights, boosting self-confidence and social skills as well as the more practical on-the-job abilities-training, like effective communication, presentation skills, email and telephone etiquette, that will make someone corporate-ready. For our unemployed youth, a work-readiness programme bridges the gap between getting their qualification and experiencing success in a physical job. At Grow Right, we believe learnerships and work-readiness programmes must go hand in hand to ensure a successful outcome.”
Grow Right is currently the only South African Training and Development Organisation with the certification to offer the Personality Star assessment to clients for their employees and workplace readiness candidates.
This is the first personality assessment to use a combination of the Enneagram and Carl Jung models of self- awareness. It takes as little as 20 minutes to complete and provides users with a personality summary and detailed strengths and challenges, including how these traits might translate in their career and relationships.
Are all learnerships in South Africa created equal?
They should be, but often, they are not. “Youth learnerships are implemented over a period 12-months and are primarily aimed at the unemployed or people with disabilities aged 18 to 35,” De Benedictis explains. “In terms of B-BBEE regulations and codes of good practice, learnerships have been prioritised and businesses are required to allocate 2.5% of their company headcount to learnerships in exchange for a certain number of points.
This requires businesses to make a considerable financial investment that’s usually then paid over to third-party training providers, who go on to provide their ‘brand’ of learnership package. Some training companies provide a very basic learnership programme, while other learnerships that are offered do the same basics, but they really do go the extra mile in providing a huge volume of added-value content, skills and assessments that benefit the individual learner – and, ultimately, the business – greatly,” she says.
Grow Right’s vision is to “Engage, Develop, Grow and Empower, thereby radically reducing the unemployment rate, and creating equal, safe and sustainable working environments for all South Africans”. The business is about “radical transformation for the economy of tomorrow, and inspiring trust through service excellence and quality delivery.”
Covid-19 and the resulting lockdowns have had a massive impact on learnerships in the past 18 months. To protect their employees, many companies implemented work-from-home schemes and downsized – or even closed – their offices entirely. The greater economic impact of the pandemic has been felt massively, with many smaller businesses folding and larger businesses having to retrench staff, reduce salaries or furlough employees during the first and second waves. Cashflow has been impacted, which means less money to spend down the line. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
“Learnerships have still been taking place, just on a smaller scale,” De Benedictis says.
“The biggest challenges have been finding meaningful hosting for learnership candidates because it’s difficult to get a certain number of learners into businesses from a cost and safety perspective, and then also dealing with absenteeism.”
With this increased move to work from home and the subsequent decrease in physical learnership opportunities, Grow Right has also taken advantage of doing things digitally by implementing online learnerships to enable learners to still learn new skills and gain this valuable career experience.
So, what will ensure a flourishing future employee pipeline and real transformation in the space? De Benedictis believes “investment is key!” She goes on to explain that “investment in learnerships should not be viewed as a grudge purchase but rather as an opportunity to commit your business to lasting change for the youth of our country. And if your focus isn’t on empowering employability, that is detrimental to the future of South Africa.”