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How Do Learnerships Help Unemployed Youth Now?

Do Learnerships Help Unemployed Youth? Research finds that although learnerships show promise, they still need further evaluation.

The South African Employment Challenge: Learnerships Help Unemployed Youth

how do learnerships help unemployed youth article

How Do Learnerships Help Unemployed Youth in South Africa? Do They Succeed in Their Objectives?

This is part two of our discussion on the research paper “The Success of Learnerships? Lessons from South Africa’s Training and Education Programme.” Written by Neil Rankin, Gareth Roberts, and Volker Schöer. Now we’re covering section 3, “The South African Employment Challenge and the Learnership Program.”

Section 3: The South African employment challenge and the learnership program

1. High Youth Unemployment in South Africa: Can Learnerships Help Unemployed Youth?

The study talks about the persistently high unemployment rates among young South Africans, particularly those aged 20-29. Historical data indicates a continuous struggle for young people to secure jobs. This was made even worse by the global financial crisis in 2008.

  • More than half of those aged 20-29 who want to work are unemployed.
  • Broad unemployment rates in South Africa were never below 40% since 2000.
  • Unemployment rates were above 50% for most of the 2000-11 period.
do learnerships succeed

2. Causes of Youth Unemployment: Do Learnerships Help Unemployed Youth?

A strong connection is found between unemployment and low levels of education, insufficient skills, and a lack of work experience. The mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the demands of firms, coupled with weak employability signals, further contributes to the employment challenges faced by the youth.

3. Institutional Barriers to Employment: Is that where Learnerships Help Unemployed Youth?

Institutional factors, such as minimum wage regulations and high transport costs resulting from the spatial legacy of apartheid, discourage firms from employing youth. The Youth Employment Tax Incentive, introduced in 2013, aims to address some of these barriers.

The Learnership Programme as a Solution

South Africa’s learnership program, initiated in 2001, emerges as a long-term intervention designed to tackle the issues of low skills and weak productivity signals among the unemployed. Administered by sector-specific SETAs, the program combines classroom learning with on-the-job training, providing a formal qualification.

1. Focus on Target Groups

While initially intended to be open to all skill levels and sectors, in practice, learnerships are mainly available to individuals aged 16-35, with a focus on youth, women, and the unemployed. Funding for the learnership program is derived from a 1% payroll tax on employers.

2. The Effectiveness of How Learnerships Help Unemployed Youth

Despite the significance of learnerships, there is limited research on their effectiveness. A study by the HSRC reveals a 65% completion rate. Furthermore, successful transitions to employment vary based on the level of the learnership qualification. Low-skill programs face challenges, therefore indicating a need for further evaluation.

3. Evaluation Criteria for the Learnership Programme

To assess the learnership program, the study emphasizes the importance of identifying indicator variables related to skills provision and increased entry into jobs. The analysis aims to compare outcomes for individuals participating in learnerships with those who do not. It also compares outcomes for firms undertaking SETA-accredited training compared to those that do not. Differentiation by skills group is a key focus.

Statistics Related to Youth Unemployment and Learnerships

do learnerships succeed? do learnerships help unemployed youth?

1. Youth Labor Force Participation:

  • Approximately one person in eight below the age of 25 is employed in South Africa.
  • This is in contrast to an average of about two in five in other emerging countries.

2. Wage Floor and Employment Uncertainty:

A “wage floor” refers to the minimum level at which wages or salaries can be set legally or voluntarily. It represents the lowest amount of compensation that an employer is allowed or willing to pay to their employees. The most common form of a wage floor is the legal minimum wage set by government regulations.

Wage floors can also be set through collective bargaining agreements between employers and labor unions. In these cases, workers and employers negotiate employment terms, including minimum wage levels, as part of the collective bargaining process.

3. Youth Employment Tax Incentive:

  • Introduced in late 2013 to compensate firms for employing new young workers.
  • Formally known as the Youth Employment Tax Incentive.

4. Learnership Program:

5. Funding for Learnership Program:

  • Funding is derived from a payroll tax of 1% on employers.
  • In the 2011/12 tax year, approximately R10 billion (approximately US$1.4 billion) was collected.

6. Completion Rates and Employment Transition (HSRC Study):

  • Rates of completion of learnerships are 65% two years after enrollment.
  • 86% of those who completed learnerships were employed.
  • 90% of those employed were in permanent positions.

7. Successful Transition Rates by Qualification Level (Visser and Kruss 2009):

  • 43% of those who registered for a low-skills qualification (NQF 1-3) found employment.
  • 76% of those in the medium-skills group (NQF 4) found employment.
  • 64% for the high-skills level (NQF 5-8) found employment.

8. Revenue Collection (2011/12 Tax Year):

  • South African Revenue Service (SARS) collected approximately R10 billion in payroll and workforce taxes.
  • This represented an increase of 17% over the previous tax year.
learnership impact on youth

Go to Part Three: How to Measure Learnership Impact on Youth in SA

Study Reference:

Read the full research paper at this link.

Leonie Hall

Leonie Hall, disruptive thinker and dynamic strategist, is an expert in education, development, quality management and innovation. She has spoken at local and international conferences; and currently works as an independent consultant and content developer. Contact Leonie for a consultation.

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