Are Learnerships the quick-fix cures for budget spend, rebates and BEE Points that some appear to be hoping for?
Too often the flurry of activity begins with ‘Here’s a list of learners, please get the material ready. Needs to start next week!” How often are learnerships started without a pre assessment or establishing of prior learning process taking place? In my experience – too often! Learnerships are touted as the most direct way to earn BEE points and benefit from massive tax rebates. Well massive you think R50 000 for able and R100 00 for a physically challenged person is impressive. However these deals are often those that place stringent time constraints on learners, ignoring quality measures. For example, a project once landed on my desk where the sales person had agreed to rolling out a NQFL3 Management learnership in 3 hours a month for 12 months! It’s this lack of foresight and lack of understanding of what a ‘learning experience’ entails that leads people to believe that the rebates and BEE points is potentially an ‘easy score.’
Training as business curative and quality augmentor
Learnerships, or any incentivised NQF based interventions, can add immense strategic value if initiated meaningfully and implemented correctly. If you need to enhance or develop certain skills within your organisation, Learnerships can provide opportunities to address these shortages. You can use Learnerships to institute organisational development and cultural change. The only limitation is an organisation’s imagination and inability to map out how multifaceted value can be achieved.
As a way to build synergy, leadership skills and enhance quality delivery throughout an organisation, Learnerships are great interventions. So place your talented employees on Learnerships, they are organised training interventions that can initiate further levels of excellence. Learnerships demonstrate an organisations belief in their employees and a commitment to career mobility.
A training program that is based on an understanding of andragogy (adult learning theory) can be a motivational and affirming experience for many. I firmly believe that we are reducing long term benefits of training by placing greater value on the fact that a learner is signed up than if a learner achieves the qualifications. More ‘training specialists’ are those schooled in ‘models’ as opposed to methodologies and adaptations thereof. A common current learnership implementation model is one where Learners receive manuals on the day of training and are then spoon fed how to complete them. These sessions are set up similar to pre-Apartheid classrooms where learners were required to docilely complete their work.
A robust model will require that learners grapple with problems, address practical applications and formulate arguments or questions prior to the training session. The facilitator’s role as facilitator is to ensure that everyone is efficiently engaging and expressing how they have processed the information or learning topic.
The Learning process in a robust experience is where what is learnt is the sum of everyone’s collective inputs + the resources.
In the ‘docile’model, learning is the total sum of resources (the facilitator and manuals) + individual learner inputs.
Like any business, it’s critical that the education business chain entrenches values consistently – probably more so than most industries. The business of Learning has as complex a form of delivery and accountability as the health or medical industry.
Shape the Sector
Companies and training providers should select learners together with a clear picture of what the entry criteria as specified by SAQA and their own requirements. When dealing with unemployed Learnership candidates, many companies will choose those who show a potential long-term fit in their organisation and possess learning skills applicable to the qualification level. Often HR managers are inexperienced in occupational qualification demands and overestimate learning ability. This has a damning impact on the training company and places a Learnership delivery team under immense pressure of failure. Instead of focussing on candidate growth and development – they are forced to focus on desperately meeting minimum qualification standards.
A training company focussed on Quality of Delivery rather than quantity of sales, will provide you with pre-assessment tools, establishing of prior learning tools, qualification readiness analyses…call it whatever you like. But it means ‘check and identify’ for learning fit. When a training provider repeatedly submits ‘Not Yet Competent’ results to SETA’s – their reputation is compromised. It indicates poor methods of targeting appropriate candidates, weak learning support and poor administration.
Training companies will in turn explain that if BEE points and tax rebates are awarded regardless of learner success rates – there is no incentive for corporate South Africa to adhere to NQF standards. Training companies are therefore under increasing pressure to take on high-risk candidates and potentially weaken their ability for long term sustainability. Indeed, if the NQF is about removing barriers to success – then the argument probably persists for high-risk decisions. Risky treatment sometimes results in massive gains, but when it doesn’t – negative impacts exist for everyone.
Watch what you’re injecting!