Do Learnerships Succeed in South Africa or Anywhere in the World?
Popular: But Do Learnerships Succeed Anywhere?
Exploring South Africa’s Learnership Program For Evidence of Success
To understand if learnerships succeed at their goals, we must analyze data. Let’s take a look at an interesting study from the United Nations University.
What Really Helps Youth Find Jobs: Do Apprenticeships and Learnerships Succeed?
We’re unpacking a research paper called “The Success of Learnerships? Lessons from South Africa’s Training and Education Programme.” It’s written by Neil Rankin, Gareth Roberts, and Volker Schöer. (I make a snarky comment at the end of my article, only because it’s impolite so early on!)
Section 1: Introduction to The Success of Learnerships?
Hopefully, we can understand the information the researchers present as we work our way through their paper and try to understand if learnerships are successful or not!
Do Learnerships Succeed in Uplifting South African Youth?
Now for those who don’t know, a learnership is a special training program in South Africa. It mixes classroom learning with on-the-job training. Learneships are supposed to teach young people new skills, help them find jobs faster, and reduce youth unemployment.
Do Learnerships Succeed At Their Objectives? Disappointing
So, what did the researchers find?
They looked at data from young people over four years, some of whom joined the learnership program. They looked for evidence that the learnership program really did what it was supposed to. Unfortunately, the results are a bit disappointing. Therefore it appears that while there are advantages, it will take more to ensure that learnerships succeed:
- Young people who finish the learnership program are more likely to get jobs at first, but this success doesn’t last long.
- Also, they don’t end up getting better jobs.
- The way learnerships are funded and the kinds of companies involved have a negative impact. The researchers say that because of the way funding happens, it takes resources away from smaller businesses and gives them to bigger ones.
- The funding also shifts resources from companies that need more workers to those that need fewer.
Now let’s explore what this means for similar programs in other countries.
Section 2: The role of learnership-like programs in other countries
Similar Programmes Worldwide: Where Does Youth Training Succeed?
1. Importance of Vocational Training: Goal to Make Learnerships Succeed
Many countries think that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is super important. It helps people develop skills, be more productive, and find good jobs. In Africa, we want to increase the number of students learning these skills, but it’s not happening enough right now.
2. Lessons from South Africa’s Learnership Program: Do learnerships Succeed Or Not?
The paper mentions that South Africa’s learnership program was around for more than 10 years, but that was in 2014. By now learnerships have existed for more than 20 years. FYI: I worked on the first Creative Industry learnerships piloted in Durban around 2002/03. Those were amazing times because we were pioneering and optimistic about the future. Sigh…
3. Do Learnerships Succeed in Creating Jobs for Youth?
The study questions if learnerships succeed at training young people in skills that companies need and then help them find jobs. But the study points out that there is too little data to establish exactly what is being evidenced. Companies hire youth for learnerships, and the government helps pay for them. Pity that we don’t have more data to work with then!
4. Challenges and Goals: How do Learnerships Succeed?
Learnerships seem like a great way to tackle the problem of many young people not having jobs. After all, they provide skills and work experience without companies having to pay the full cost. But, there’s not much research on whether learnerships actually work.
5. Research Findings: The Question “Do Learnerships Succeed” Answered
The research results are a bit disappointing. Even though people who finish learnerships are more likely to have jobs at first, this success doesn’t last long. It also doesn’t seem to help those with the lowest skills. In addition, the paper points out that it ends up costing smaller companies more than bigger ones.
Lessons for Other Countries: How to Make Your Learnerships Succeed
This research gives important lessons for designing similar programs in other countries. How these programs are funded is quite a big deal, and others can learn from South Africa’s experience. The good, not the bad!
For example, it’s easy to exploit learnership candidates in the labor market. Especially when the transition from a stipend to a full-time salary with the same employer has many grey areas. Some learners report that when their learnership employer hired them, the pay did not change that much. This suggests that learnership stipends can drive wages down and contribute to relentless inequality.
Furthermore, no one obligates companies to hire any of the learnership candidates they recruited. Therefore they can exploit the funding system for multiple benefits. For example, companies hire 10 disabled learnership candidates each year to obtain the most lucrative tax incentives without ever having to hire them permanently.
1. The role of similar learnership programs in other countries
But I’m sure you see why the government believes that vocational education and training programs are important. Mainly because, to a certain degree, they help young people get jobs. They are also especially significant for those who don’t finish formal school or can’t continue to higher education. These programs match skills with job needs, thereby improving the connection between workers and companies. As a result, we see similar programs in countries like Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland.
2. How do Learnerships Work? Do Learnerships Succeed Over Time?
Despite the benefits early on, some argue that these programs become less helpful over time. The type of training, the jobs people transition into, and country-specific factors matter. In places where these programs aren’t the last option for low-skilled individuals, an apprentice system can offset the impact of low school performance on job outcomes.
In Africa, most countries have some formal training programs, but only a few offer formal vocational training and apprenticeships. South Africa’s learnership program is unique because it is large-scale and a well-funded government initiative. Score for South Africa! 😉
3. More Data is Required to Fairly Evaluate Learnerships
However, evaluating learnership programs is tough. There is also limited information on learnership success. Informal training systems, like apprenticeships, are more common in Africa. Young people enter training with an experienced person, often without pay. While apprenticeships might lead to starting their own businesses, this needs a lot of startup money. Note that because learnerships obtain government funding, learners earn a stipend while on a learnership. Check out our detailed article on apprenticeships in South Africa.
4. Apprenticeship Success in Ghana
In Ghana, apprenticeships show a selection process. Research finds that those who completed them without formal education earn more than similar employed people who haven’t done an apprenticeship. Although scaling up apprenticeships may not guarantee higher wages, their widespread continuation without government support suggests they play a crucial role in the job market. Read our article on apprenticeships in South Africa.
There is evidence from Ghana, where apprenticeships follow a model typical in West Africa, that there is selection into apprenticeships but the currently employed who have completed apprenticeships but with no formal education, earn 50 per cent more than similar employed people who have not undertaken apprenticeships (Monk et al. 2008).Rankin et al. 2014
If you’re trying to decide if you should find a learnership or you have other reasons for wanting to understand learnership impacts, then I hope this information helped you. We’ll post a link to the next part of the discussion here.
Reference: Read the Paper
“The Success of Learnerships? Lessons from South Africa’s Training and Education Programme” by Neil Rankin, Gareth Roberts, and Volker Schöer. Remember, readers are leaders! Don’t be scared to click that link and read the paper we’re discussing. Share your take too! Drop a comment below or on our social media accounts.
The paper is organized like a story. It talks about:
- learnership programs in other countries, (summarised here)
- the challenges of youth unemployment in South Africa,
- how learnerships affect individuals, and
- what happens at the company level.
- Finally, it wraps up with conclusions and suggestions for other African countries.
Click the links above to read our summaries. 🙂
The Snarky End
But my ma se kind! Can we please have more Black researchers looking into our learnerships? Don’t bother with academia, do your field research and publish. Academics depend on research funding. As a result, research projects either tow the corporate line or fit into whatever campus narrative. Outsmart the old guard.
If you want to get money to research the space, you can contact the SETAs with your proposal. They are far more likely to fund a study than a corporate entity. I love a good learnership story. So if you have one, send it in.