INSETA Learnership solves SMME woes

07 March 2013 INSETA
Sandra Dunn

Sandra Dunn

The recent graduation of 102 new FAIS-compliant learners as part of the pilot INSETA SMME learnership demonstrates the effectiveness of learnerships to boost skills and create employment in the sector.

SMMEs in the insurance sector have found themselves in dire straits in recent years. Loss of employees and skills due to dissatisfaction with FAIS compliance regulations, lower than expected economic growth and increased competition from larger corporations that are moving into the micro-insurance market, are all creating difficulties for small businesses.

In a bid to help them overcome these challenges, in January 2012 the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA) introduced a pilot SMME learnership programme to support work-based experience and help the sector grow its own skills. The leanerships offer participants 12 months of work experience, FAIS compliance, and a NQF Level 4 qualification.

The 2012 inaugural INSETA SMME learnership class has now graduated, with a total of 102 learners having completed the programme, and 64 of these immediately finding full-time employment or contract work across 60 different SMME insurance organisations.

Speaking at the graduation of the SMME learnership in Johannesburg on 1 February, INSETA CEO Sandra Dunn said “I am very excited to see the quality of learners that have come through the programme and I am impressed with the success of the SMME learnership project and what it has achieved in the insurance sector. The students have also shown amazing FAIS exam outcomes, with results consistently in the 90% bracket.”

Dunn says that FAIS-compliant learners are the answer to overcoming many of the challenges facing SMMEs in the insurance sector: “Fresh talent is a valuable resource unto itself, and allows for new ideas and innovation. Further, new entrants to the sector are not as daunted by the compliance exams, and therefore every effort should be made to encourage new blood into the sector.”

She believes that learnerships not only speak to the needs of the SMMEs, but also to that of new matriculants in general. “The Department of Higher Education has created an increased sense of urgency for the SETAs to create more direct links with the workplace. School leavers are often left with little or no opportunity for higher education, and are forced to take any unskilled employment that is available, with no room for development. This continues to exacerbate the lack of job creation and hinder transformation,” she says.

Learnership programmes circumvent such issues by offering work experience and an income, while at the same time giving matriculants invaluable sector skills and a qualification that ensures development of both the individual and the sector itself. “Even if employment is not gained with the company that the learner is initially placed in, the industry-specific skills training means that the insurance sector gains a solid foundation of skilled, experienced professionals, and gives them an opportunity to accelerate their career, and at the same time provide the country with a desperately needed, skilled workforce,” Dunn says.

Top learner, Refilwe Nyathi, who is now permanently employed at Commrisk Insurance Brokers, entered the programme after finishing matric, and says that the SMME learnership gave her an amazing opportunity: “I am so thankful for the chance to enter this challenging but interesting field – it was an wonderful experience from start to finish, and I could not be happier at Commrisk. Learnerships are an avenue that should be explored across all sectors as a reliable method of skills development.”

Dunn believes the effects of the learnership programme could be far-reaching, and INSETA plans on running more such SMME programmes in the future. “There is a great need for training of this nature in the insurance sector; small businesses and skilled training are key ingredients for growth and development in South Africa. With this programme, we aim to develop skilled employees who can put their organisations on the path of sustainable success, who can innovate and create new products and services, and thus create even more jobs in the long run,” she says.

A total of 60 organisations across the Free State, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal hosted learners, and the in-house training was run by the African Resources Training Group (ARTG), which helped develop the learnership.

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