Dark side of learnerships

While learnerships can offer invaluable opportunities, there are still some obstacles. Rustim Ariefdien takes a closer look

Learnerships are a wonderful opportunity for persons with disabilities to improve their skills and develop their passport to employment or entrepreneurship. However, the outcomes of learnerships do not always deliver as desired.

A learnership is an accredited qualification. It provides a learner with a theoretical and experiential-learning base through workplace experience over a 12-month period. During the learnership, the learner earns a stipend. An employer has financial benefits in the form of SETA Discretionary Grant Funding, tax benefits and can earn BBBEE points.

Through learnerships, government achieves its goal of decreasing unemployment, reducing the poverty and inequality gaps, and growing the economy. A win-win for all concerned. The learnership is a very complex process. The learner has training for roughly three out of the 12 months with the remaining time spent in the workplace.

The training provider’s responsibility includes facilitating, assessing, moderating, and uploading the results to the SETA. The employer ensures that the learner gets the appropriate exposure to activities in the workplace that speaks to the theory component of the learnership. The SETA has the responsibility of certifying the learner.

Learners with disabilities are not always ready to enter the world of work and not enough thought is provided to reasonable accommodation by both the skills development provider and the employer. This inevitably leads to challenges for the learner that manifests in behaviour and attendance challenges.

Absenteeism is the one challenge that adversely affect the skills development provider and employer. It means that the learner cannot be trained and the financial benefits for the employer is placed at risk as the learnerships are not able to be exited. The SETA considers learnerships that are not exited as incomplete, which is a waste of funding.

Transport is another inhibitor for learners with disabilities. If not thought through, it could mean that the learner is not able to get to training and work effectively. This again leads to absenteeism and other challenges. Unfortunately, unscrupulous employers and skills development providers do not fulfil their obligations in the process.

It is imperative that learners be guided to the value of a learnership and be assisted to complete their journey. A work readiness programme, such as the programme offered by QASA, will go a long way to ensuring success.

Employers and skills development providers need to be sensitised and their premises accessible for the types of disabilities that will be entering their space.

SETA’s need to be understanding of the needs of the learner with a disability as well.

For all stakeholders an understanding of reasonable accommodation is critical, and learners need to be supported. What can help in this regard is a psychosocial- based programme that assists learners with the emotional intelligence that they need to succeed.

Through stakeholders can achieve the objective of certification that provides the learner with a disability with a qualification on their life-long learning journey.


contributor

Rustim Ariefdien is a disability expert extraordinaire who assists businesses to “let the Ability of disAbility enAble their profitAbility” through BBBEE, skills development, employment equity and socio-economic development. His purpose is the economic empowerment of persons with disability in Africa. As a person with a disability himself, he has extensive experience in the development and empowerment of persons with disability.

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