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Learnerships: Making the benefits available to SMMEs

01 February 2007 Jacqui van Zyl, Faisit

In general, benefits of learnerships have been limited to larger employers within the insurance industry. In this fascinating new series of articles, we will explore ways of making learnerships accessible to a wide range of employers including SMME's. In this first article we look at what a learnership is and detail the benefits thereof.

A learnership can be defined as a structured, occupationally based learning programme, similar to an apprenticeship. It leads to a recognised qualification on the South African National Qualifications Framework.

Theory and practice

A learnership has a structured theoretical component, usually addressed in the classroom, and a practical work experience component, requiring the learner to operate within a work environment. On average a learnership takes between 12 to 18 months to complete.

There are three parties required for a learnership - a learner (employed or unemployed); an employer; and an education, training and development service provider. All three sign a learnership agreement. The range of learnerships available for financial advisers and their support staff can be found on www.inseta.org.za.

Benefits of a learnership

Employers embark on learnerships because they need qualified staff that have the necessary work experience. This has become particularly important since the introduction of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act and the Financial Sector Charter with its learnership targets. Government supports learnerships through funding and tax benefits. Funds made available contribute towards learner allowances and the training expenses.

Grants

Grants payable by INSETA range from R10 000 – R25 000 per learner. There are specific window periods set by INSETA in which an employer can apply for funding. Many training providers assist employers in accessing these grants.

Tax incentives

The Minister of Finance gave an extension and an increase of the learnership tax allowance in the 2006 and 2007 Budget. The learnership tax allowance was extended to October 2011 and the maximum initial allowances were increased from R17 500 to R20 000 per year for existing employees and from R25 000 to R30 000 for new employees. Similarly, the maximum allowance upon the completion of the learnership increased from R25 000 to R30 000 for agreements entered into from 1 March 2006. The tax benefit is applicable irrespective if the learnership is funded by INSETA grants or not.

Win-win situation

Unemployed learners embark on learnerships because they might not be able to finance full-time study. The learning programmes associated with learnerships are directly related to insurance and provides a foundation for further learning. As they will be employed (on a temporary employment agreement) for the duration of the learnership the experience they gain will help them when they apply for a position or when they want to create their own job opportunities.

Employed staff embark on learnerships to gain new skills and knowledge to increase their quality of work and to obtain FAIS credits. Learnerships also provide a career path and opportunities for further learning.

Employers should explore the concept of learnerships as a means of employing and developing the right skills with Government support.

Don't miss the next one!

In the next edition we will look at the process to be followed and the documentation to be completed by an employer. We will also interview an employer with learners currently on a learnership and some who have completed learnerships.

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