Learnership programme fills the skills development gap

17 November 2010 Liberty
Audrey Mothupi, Liberty Chief Executive: Group Strategic Services

Audrey Mothupi, Liberty Chief Executive: Group Strategic Services

The skills shortage in SA is well documented, and the local economy is in dire need of young people with a proven set of business skills in each sector of industry. An International Business Report conducted last year by Grant Thornton revealed that 41 percent of the local private sector felt that the biggest constraint on business growth is the lack of a skilled workforce.

To address this need, SETA’s (Sector Education Training Authorities) created an opportunity for companies to run learnership programmes. During these programmes young people are given the opportunity to study and also receive practical on the job training which complements and grounds their theoretical knowledge. Unfortunately, some programmes are not delivering on this mandate. One of the biggest challenges when it comes to learnerships is the high ‘drop out’ rate of learners, who quickly become demotivated because they feel that the job they are performing is not relevant to their area of theoretical study, or that they are not adding enough value to the company.

The reason for this is that many companies often just throw money at the programme, recruiting learners to fill the requisite slots, without carefully mentoring and guiding learners from the recruitment and selection process to eventual graduation and gainful employment.

The exception to this national trend is the Liberty Learnership Programme. The effectiveness of the programme speaks for itself as figures show Liberty has a 97 percent learnership completion rate, which is significantly over ten times the national average. The programme is a balance between in-class learning and practical workplace training. Upon completion of the programme learners receive a National Qualification Level 4 certificate through Boston City Campus and Busines College, which is equivalent to just below first year level of a university degree. The combination of a recognised academic qualification from an accredited institution and ‘on the job’ skills and experience, gives these graduates a distinct advantage over the rest.

According to Ari Katz, Director at Boston City Campus and Business College, “Liberty has over the past 6 years of the programme, developed the best recipe for success because of its intensive and dedicated project management giving learners industry leading training and experience.

”The company has demonstrated real commitment to skills development, and mentors its learners consistently through a dedicated learnership programme. It is probably the most successful learnership programme in SA because of these qualities.”

Audrey Mothupi, Liberty Chief Executive: Group Strategic Services says many programmes can get “lost in the corporate clutter or shuttled to the side” and as a result learners do not feel productive.

Liberty has a dedicated team who provide guidance and support to learners from recruitment through to graduation. Mothupi says it is vital for learners to receive the attention they need and Liberty’s learnership project team, “get involved, roll up their sleeves and jump into the trenches to ensure their learners graduate. Companies need learnership managers to have dedicated roles with clear deliverables, and have a vested interest and passion for seeing their learners complete the workplace programme.”

“Our learners benefit greatly from the programme which is also effectively a year long interview and prepares them for when they will need to market themselves out there in the competitive job market.”

“Learners need hands on guidance to help them add value, boost their self esteem and flourish in the workplace. We also ensure that the job ‘match’ is right for learners so that they are learning to practically apply what they have studied, “she says.

“Many companies only have three month on site training programmes which we felt is not enough time to really impart workplace skills to learners. This is why our programme runs for a full year, at the end of which we are often confident enough to offer learners a fulltime position within our company,” she says.

“In addition we carefully recruit and select learners with the right positive and productive attitude, and then mentor and guide them throughout the process until graduation. Our selection process is stringent and we recruit the ‘cream of the crop’ to ensure our learners have the potential to perform and grow with us.”

“If necessary we also move learners within the company to roles and positions where they can add value in addition to carefully monitoring that they are constantly learning new skills and are being productive.”

“INSETA also assists us greatly by funding a number of our learners and helping us in monitoring their progress. We regularly send them site reports on the learner’s progress and our course has also been endorsed by INSETA.” says Mothupi.

Not only are learners given sufficient skills to often result in them being offered employment by Liberty itself at the end of the workplace training year (300 learners out of 451 were employed by Liberty over the first 5 programmes), but other insurance companies use the programme as a talent pool and often ‘snap up’ learners graduating from the Liberty learnership programme.

Mothupi says the programme is much in demand because of its success rate. Former learners have gone on to become team leaders and senior managers in the company who then give back by training and mentoring new graduates themselves, continuing a positive and effective training cycle.

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