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Is B-BBEE failing Women?

Could B-BBEE be doing more to promote the advancement of women in the workplace?   

There are 14 points available on the B-BBEE scorecard for companies that empower their female employees but a recent report released by the Commission for Employment Equity shows that while women make up 45% of the workforce, the promotion of women into senior management positions continues to be frustratingly slow.

So, what else should we be doing to ensure that gender diversity and gender equality in the workplace are not foreign ideals that are unattainable?

 

“Through the Employment Equity Act, South African businesses are already under massive pressure to transform their workplaces. So, more legislation is not an answer to address the advancement of women – and more specifically African women – in the workplace,” says Sean Sharp, the Executive Head of Sales at EduPower Skills Academy.

 “A carrot rather than a stick approach is the best way to encourage companies to drive empowerment and the ideal vehicle to implement this is B-BBEE. But we need to shift the goalposts to make this work,” Sean explains.

 

Under the Codes of Good Practice, there are a number of areas across the priority elements that currently award companies for meeting women-specific targets. These include 4 points under Ownership, 6 points under Management Control and another 4 points under Enterprise and Supplier Development.

 

“The bulk of the points available are only unlocked when Black Women achieve top-level positions. But if this is the desired outcome, over the past 10 years the results show that B-BBEE is failing to deliver this empowerment objective,” Sean adds.

 

This comment is based on the findings released in the recent Commission for Employment Equity Report 2020/21. This shows that over a 10-year period, Coloured and Indian women representation at top-level management may have increased but the representation of African Women fell by 2.7%.

 

TOP MANAGEMENT

2010/11
Report [19.1%]

2020/21
Report [24.9%]

White Women

65.4%

64.7%

African Women

18.5%

15.8%

Coloured Women

4.8%

5.7%

Indian Women

7.5%

10.6%

 

“While there are more Black women in senior positions overall, the fact that the number of African women in senior management positions has decreased is very concerning. This could allude to the fact that companies are simply not doing enough to develop the talent they have, and this is where there is a massive opportunity for B-BBEE to play a more strategic role in the advancement of women,” says Sean.

Sean believes that in addition to incentivising the development of women in senior roles, B-BBEE should also be focussing on the development of women throughout the organisation. The sweet spot for this is the 25 points available under Skills Development. He says that by restructuring this priority element to include African Women-specific targets, B-BBEE could ensure that they receive the training they need to secure sustainable employment opportunities or to advance within their organisations.

“The balance between simplicity and effectiveness lies in adjusting the B-BBEE Skills Development scorecard to give businesses, especially listed and generic corporates, points for measurably prioritising and incentivising training for unemployed or employed African Women,” Sean explains.

By identifying and training promising African Women, organisations would not only be enhancing their productivity at junior levels, it would also establish a strong and progressive succession plan for these women. And with the bonus of additional points on the B-BBEE scorecard, this could offer businesses a win-win that would add to their bottom line.  

Sean concludes by emphasising that B-BBEE isn’t a one-year race but rather a long-term strategy to deliver transformation and sustainable economic growth for all South Africans.

“Small changes now could build up to deliver impressive results five years down the line. By fine-tuning Skills Development to include specific African Women targets, B-BBEE could be successful in achieving the advancement of women in the workplace that has proved to be so elusive for so long.”

Press release disseminated on Behalf of:

Sean Sharp

Executive Head of Sales at EduPower Skills Academy

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The Road To Empowering Women In The Workplace

How companies can empower women and the benefits of this for their B-BBEE rating  

It’s a fact that in South Africa, women are less likely to own a business, less likely to be employed and less likely to be promoted. The only way to advance gender equality is to prioritse the inclusion of women in the mainstream economy by ensuring they have equal opportunity to acquire the skills and experience needed to build sustainable careers.

“Black women particularly are part of the most marginalised groups, not rising nearly fast enough into the economy and continuing to be most vulnerable to slow economic growth,” says Sean Sharp, the Executive Head of Sales at EduPower Skills Academy.

The latest Stats SA labour report confirms that women and in particular Black women, are lagging behind in socio-economic opportunities. Unemployment rates for males and females are 31,4% and 34% respectively and of these, 38% of Black African women are unemployed. More women (56,2%) than men are discouraged work seekers who have stopped looking for a job, while more than four in every 10 young females are not in employment, education or training.

The battle for empowerment doesn’t end when women are in permanent employment. Even though women make up 45% of the workforce, only 32% of executive positions are held by Black women. “One has to ask why the representation of Black women in top management remains lacking when B-BBEE Policy rewards organisations for employing women in senior level positions,” Sean asks.

Under the Codes of Good Practice, African, Coloured and Indian women are defined as ‘Black’ and there are more than 14 points available on the scorecard to encourage and reward organisations for their participation. These points are distributed across Ownership (4 points), Management Control (6 points), Enterprise and Supplier Development (4 points) as well as the EAP targets under Skills Development.

“Though the Scorecard awards points for the Skills Development of Black people, there is no specific reference to women. The advancement of Black women through Skills Development interventions and the ripple effect of absorption provides organisations the opportunity to maximise the points available under this priority element,” Sean explains.

So how can your business prioritise their B-BBEE Scorecards through the employment of women and more importantly, promote the empowerment of Black women?

Sean says that the companies that have succeeded in promoting employment equity have done so by prioritising roadmaps to develop women in their organisations. This begins with identifying women for entry-level positions right through to the development of women for senior management.

 

“Fortunately, in terms of entry-level jobs, skills development can help provide young women with more opportunities. One such example is tax-incentivised learnership training,” Sean says.

 

Learnership programmes are being implemented more and more frequently in an effort to empower disadvantaged youths – especially women – and help build work-ready skills to combat unemployment.

 

“Learnerships have a huge social impact. Unemployed women not only get the opportunity to obtain qualifications and workplace experience, they also have a chance to build a better future for themselves and their children. For many South African women, this is the only way to obtain a qualification,” says Sean.

 

Learnerships also contribute to the skills pool from which employers recruit. When women gain skills, it increases their productivity and adds more value to the contribution they bring to the South African job market.

Once in a permanent position, continued development to guarantee succession planning is essential and Black women in particular often need additional support. Sean explains: “Black women face the pressure of having to work exceptionally hard to prove they deserve their role, plus they have an additional social burden as they are held up as role models for other women.”

As we commemorate Women’s month, it is the perfect opportunity for companies to assess their contribution to the empowerment of women. 2021 cannot simply be another year where gender equality is confined to a ladies’ lunch. As a nation, we have to create more opportunities that empower women to become economically active and one of the best ways to achieve this is through learnerships.

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The South African Learnership Scam

Five actions you need to take to ensure that your Training Provider is delivering value

It’s a known fact that the importance of Skills Development for company Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) scorecards has fueled a multi-billion Rand training industry that’s dominated by private companies. What’s less known is that while many of these organisations are implementing quality learnerships, there are an equal number that are pocketing millions yet delivering sub-standard learnerships that provide little value for their learners.   

This is according to Sean Sharp, Executive: Head of Sales for EduPower Skills Academy. He explains that learnerships hosted at the employer or the “sponsor” company’s premises are generally above reproach. The issue however comes in with hosted learnerships, where learners are spending the full 12-months of the learnership at the training provider. 

“A lot of learners who are hosted by private training companies are simply not getting the work experience that’s needed,” says Sean. “These training providers have thousands of graduates every year but due to the fact that learnerships are not policed, they are being awarded the qualification when in fact they are no better off than when they started,” he explains. 

To add insult to injury, these sub-standard learnerships are also cheating SARS, which continues to pay out billions in Section 12H and ETI tax rebates to companies for sponsoring learnerships. “Due to the actions of these opportunistic training providers, the sponsor companies, SARS and the South African taxpayer are all being robbed!” Sean says.

To address the quality of learnerships, Sean believes that the sponsoring companies have to become more closely involved. He says there are five red flags that will indicate your training provider is not delivering:

1. Price point

Learnerships are designed to provide the learner with both a theoretical and practical component, with 30% of the 12-month learnership spent in an academic environment and the remaining 70% used to implement those learnings in a workplace environment. To deliver this, training companies need classrooms and additional facilities for workplace experience as well as qualified facilitators, assessors and full-time coaches and mentors. All of this adds up so if your company is paying less than R30 000 per learner per year, it’s the first red flag that the correct measures are not in place.

2. Your learnership is less than 5 months

To meet the requirements for a learnership, the learner needs to complete a set number of notional hours at a rate of 10 hours per credit. As most learnerships are 120 to 150 credits, your learner has to complete a minimum of 1 200 hours of work experience – which is best achieved over the 12-month learnership if they are working a normal workday, five days a week. If your training company says your learnership can be completed in less time, that’s your next red flag.

3. Meet your learners

As the employer, you should be able to meet with your learners whenever you want as they should be on-site during working hours. If you arrive unexpectedly at the training site and you are given the runaround as none of your learners can be found, this is your third red flag.

4. Stipend is below minimum wage

All unemployed people selected for a learnership are paid a learner allowance – or a stipend – by the sponsoring company. While the precise amount may vary, a stipend is intended to cover living expenses such as housing, food and travel. If your training provider tells you that your stipend can be sub-minimum wage, this is your fourth red flag as it means that your learner is only working one or two days each week.

5. Absorption

B-BBEE has added a new dimension to learnerships for unemployed learners with the introduction of absorption which encourages sponsor companies to absorb the learners at the end of the 12 months. Employers that choose to outsource their learnerships for People with Disabilities or the unemployed are often unable to provide employment and these learners are therefore generally absorbed by the training company. If your training company will not absorb any of your learners, this is your fifth and final red flag. 

 “When training providers don’t deliver quality learnerships, it’s the learner that loses out. The whole thing about learnerships is that nobody is really accountable for ensuring that they’re implemented to provide maximum value for the learner. As long as this is the case, the responsibility falls on business, training providers and learners to apply the spirit of the legislation instead of looking for ways to get around the legal requirements and simply tick boxes,” Sean concludes.

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A Focus on Fronting

Fronting fraud is a serious crime that is preventing South Africa from transforming its economy

The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Commission recently spoke out against fronting, stating that it is still a serious problem in South Africa. Rajan Naidoo, Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy believes that the B-BBEE Commission is correct in once again highlighting this important issue.

 

Rajan explains: “Fronting fraud is a serious crime and a common occurrence in South Africa that obstructs economic transformation. It leads to companies taking opportunities away from those businesses that truly embrace transformative ideals and thus, comply with B-BBEE Ownership requirements.”

 

He says that B-BBEE will only succeed if companies that choose to implement it do so with the right intent which is to improve the experience of their fellow black South Africans. “Unfortunately, too many South African businesses still operate in an apartheid-based bubble, only emerging to undertake the bare essential activities before retreating once more into their perceived safe spaces,” he explains.

So what is fronting?

The B-BBEE Act was amended in 2013 to, among others, define a fronting practice as a “a transaction, arrangement or other act or conduct that directly or indirectly undermines the achievement of the objectives of the Act or the implementation of any of the provisions of this Act.” 

While fronting is further defined by the Act in detail, Rajan says it can summarised as companies that pretend to be more compliant with B-BBEE policies than they actually are. “Fronting is a form of window-dressing in which black employees appear as beneficiaries, directors or shareholders but are in fact not,” he adds.

 

Signs of Fronting

Rajan says that while fronting is not always apparent the most common examples are where a company asserts that a lower-salaried black employee, such as a driver, is a director or holds a senior position in order for the business to appear B-BBEE compliant and secure a tender. This is also evident when black employees as listed as executives but at a notably lower salary than other executives. 

“In a scenario like this, the black individual involved may not have deliberately tried to breach the Act but is still guilty of fraud. They will also face criminal charges together with the main perpetrators who devised the fronting plan,” says Rajan.

Another flag is that the company may comply with black ownership requirements but performs very poorly on the management control element of the scorecard. This means that on paper they have majority black owners but in practice, the company is still controlled by white or other minorities. 

 

“In the private sector this may not technically be fronting but exclusion of black, particularly African management from decision making and controlling roles is fronting in spirit,” Rajan explains. “Many B-BBEE practitioners advise their clients to selectively optimise some areas of the scorecard and either ignore or deprioritise the management control element to achieve a predetermined overall B-BBEE level.”

 

Skills Development

Rajan says this selective manipulation of the B-BBEE scorecard is also common under skills development. Many companies comply technically by meeting numerical and financial spend targets, but they rarely focus on the true transformational intent of skills development, employability and employment. 

“These companies select training partners that emphasise SARS tax rebates, price or other financial considerations but do not focus on the intended beneficiaries or their futures,” Rajan adds. “Commitment to high quality training is the only way to ensure that every Rand spent on skills will have a chance of yielding the employability or employment that South African’s – specially our youth – so desperately need.”

If B-BBEE fails in its intended goals, those who pay it lip service or are opposed to its compliance will also be those who will shout the loudest about it being a failed government policy.

Fronting is not only preventing South Africa from transforming its economy, but from growing and developing it, too. As a nation we need to be deeply introspective about our nationhood, nation building and racial and ethnic polarisation as these personally held values impact the way we implement policies such as B-BBEE. We cannot legislate our way to nationhood, but rather our humanity, values and integrity is required to give policy its effect,” Rajan concludes.

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Upskilling the informal sector to drive job creation

How we can leverage existing industries to create employment and entrepreneurial growth

South Africa’s biggest challenge is unemployment. While this has always been high, the Covid-19 lockdown has exacerbated unemployment and today, over 11 million people are out of work. Rajan Naidoo, the Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy, believes this situation can be reversed by leveraging existing industries to create employment and entrepreneurial growth.

“There are a multitude of traders and vendors who operate on the margins of our economy. They lack skills and wide market recognition but if we provide training, access to finance and grants and the resources to help these small businesses grow, they have massive potential to create jobs,” Rajan explains. 

He says that developing the informal economy begins with a two-step process. “These SMEs need to be formalised through business registration as this will provide better recognition within industry supply chains and open up procurement pathways,” Rajan explains. “Step two is to provide skills development, building industry-specific knowledge and business acumen.”

To illustrate how employment can take place, Rajan explores the opportunities for development in four sectors:

1. Construction

Due to the huge housing shortfall, there is scope for a potential boom in our construction sector. While projects need high-level skills such as engineers, surveyors and architects, they also require vocational skills from plumbers, painters, electricians, bricklayers and many more.

These skills are readily available: if you go to any hardware store, there are queues of people offering their services, but they lack formal skills and business recognition, so they continue to eke out a living. Learnerships or short courses combined with formalised business support would make a world of difference to these would-be professional artisans. They can work and earn an income while upgrading their skills and in turn, become entrepreneurs and employ others.

2. Business Processing Services

For years, South Africa has been internationally competitive in the Business Processing Services (Call Centre) industry. Running both foreign and local campaigns, it’s an entry-level job creator where a Grade 12, a learnership and good communication skills set individuals up for success, with strong career prospects.

Growth and employment potential in this sector are still on the rise but we need to encourage more black ownership. Since most corporates use call centres – either insourced or outsourced – they have the opportunity to use their B-BBEE obligations to support smaller black-owned call centres with outsourced work using an integrated B-BBEE solution combining Skills, Enterprise, Supplier and Socio-Economic Development.

3. Micro Retail Sector

The micro-retail sector (SPAZA) has been trading for decades and it remains a viable source of job creation and entrepreneurship. This sector however requires investment and skills to organise, formalise and develop.

Skills development for consumer retail, stock control, marketing and business knowledge can be taught through learnerships while the business is operational, and the learner earns while they learn. Large consumer goods suppliers have the opportunity via their B-BBEE scorecards to invest in these distribution channels by funding skills and entrepreneurial development. And this is not an act of charity but rather a way of improving their access to the consumer market whilst building social capital.

4. Mobile Food Production

Mobile food production caters for several markets including township, commercial and industrial sectors and it’s an excellent entrepreneurship vehicle. To encourage this, vocational skills in food production, food hygiene, inventory management and small business skills would provide a boost for operators and learnerships can be completed without business disruption. Through their B-BBEE mechanisms, food manufacturers and suppliers can drive this development, building relationships that will ultimately also promote their products.

Rajan points out that these sectors are a few examples where jobs can be created through vocational skills, industries that have been crying out for formalisation so they are able to access finances, resources, skills and collective negotiating power.

“Many corporates have established links to development sectors, they should hone their B-BBEE strategy through Skills, Enterprise, Supplier and Socio-Economic Development to continue building these mutually beneficial relationships. Many more projects are needed to drive the exponential growth that will alleviate the national unemployment crisis.”

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The hidden costs of B-BBEE Skills Development

The hidden costs that are essential for high quality Skills Development that delivers

When Skills Development is viewed as a number on a balance sheet, it can account for a significant percentage of a company’s income. This cost however is relative and should not be judged in isolation; Skills Development should rather be evaluated against the massive benefits it derives for the company, individuals and the South African economy.

Rajan Naidoo, the Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy says that corporates should view Skills Development as an investment in people, with the positive results for organisations being exponentially greater than the cost.

 

“Skills Development is a means to an end and not an end in itself,” Rajan explains. “On a micro learner level, employment, career advancement and ultimately economic freedom is the goal. On a macro level, training helps us to grow our national economic output, reduce social inequalities and build a strong middle income group.”

 

Rajan believes that for companies to realise these exponential benefits, Skills Development has to be done right. This means investing in training providers with the infrastructure and training capacity to yield the desired outcome: “In Skills Development, qualified and experienced trainers, mentors, coaches and top-notch facilities are what differentiates ordinary from extraordinary. High quality and exponential results may come with a relatively higher price tag but value is the determinant of the true cost.”

Rajan explains the costs in facilitating high quality Skills Development and how these result in value for employed and unemployed learners, the sponsor and the economy:

 

1. Extensive Programmes

For many corporates, learnerships make up the majority of the points earned for Skills Development. These are generally 12-month training programmes that comprise 30% theory and 70% practical work experience and include cost components such as recruitment, training and remuneration. Paying a decent stipend to learners ensures reasonable nutrition, transport, attire and research; which ultimately help the learner successfully complete the qualification.

2. Meaningful Work Experience

Real-world quality work experience is essential in the development of the learner as this imparts the skills needed for the world of work. To implement work experience that really shifts the learners requires extensive resources, infrastructure and management time. The ratio of staff to learners is often high to counteract the slow increase in productivity, learner behaviour and conduct, lack of knowledge and even apathy. Quality work experience therefore necessitates the use of experienced mentors and coaches and they are invaluable in building holistic graduates who are ready to transition from unemployed to employed.

3. Future proofing skills

Facilitating access to the internet, downloading and printing is an invaluable component for any student in the modern model. Work experience with current end user software and reliable, efficient hardware is the cornerstone for work preparedness and this requires training providers and employers to invest accordingly.

4. Reasonable accommodation for People with Disabilities

Corporates frequently opt for learnerships for People with Disabilities (PWD’s). These are usually outsourced to specialist training providers as the sponsors don’t have the capacity to develop these learners in-house. But it’s not only a case of having the right facilities. Most PWD learners also require specialised training and service providers close academic and social gaps by providing additional training, coaching and mentoring – which all make up the reasonable accommodation component in PWD learnerships. By offering these services, PWD learners receive the support they need to be fully integrated into the workforce.

5. Post learnership employment

There is also an added service where training companies provide or help their unemployed graduates find permanent employment. For some providers, there is the incentive to offer permanent employment after the learnership, which requires an increased payroll. The knowledge and experience gained by a young unemployed learner is however huge as the learnership can increase their productivity threefold and the growth in their value to the business and economy is massive.

Rajan concludes: “Corporates using price as the sole determinant of their Skills Development are likely also getting low quality results. But for those companies that prioritise high quality training and development, Skills Development delivers exponential results which reflects the true intent of the B-BBEE Codes.”

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EduPower creates employment for 20 learners

Training provider develops powerful absorption model to provide life changing opportunities

Learnerships are recognised as one of the key vehicles to create work-ready skills for South Africa’s unemployed youth but EduPower Skills Academy is taking this a step further. The training provider is creating permanent job opportunities for its learners and during March, it could offer full time employment to 20 of its graduates.

“In 2019 the writing was on the wall that South Africa’s unemployment rate was going to skyrocket and we decided to do something about it,” explains Rajan Naidoo, EduPower’s Managing Director. “The result is a powerful absorption model where we recruit, train, provide work experience and offer permanent job opportunities to our learners when they complete their learnerships.”

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EduPower piloted the model last year and during 2020, it absorbed three of its graduate learners. This proved so successful that it has resulted in the recent, much larger intake.

“By 2022, we intend creating job opportunities for more than 100 learners and we will continue to grow this number in subsequent years. The fact that more than half of these individuals are people with disabilities further confirms the strength of the model in creating life-changing employment opportunities,” Rajan adds.

Some of the 20 graduates have been absorbed into the EduPower team and as a
consequence, from April 2021, 70% of the Academy’s staff complement will be made up of its graduate learners. The majority of the employment opportunities being created by EduPower are however, in entrepreneurship and the staff requirement to operate these small businesses.

“We have successfully built our absorption model by working in collaboration with our sponsor clients, many of which are South African Blue Chip corporates,” says Rajan. “For B- BBEE Skills Development purposes, these companies sponsor the recruitment and training as well as provide partial funding for the absorption model. EduPower’s high quality training and tried and tested model does the rest.”

Rajan says that the Academy’s model is based on the philosophy and value system of training with a purpose – training is a means to an end goal and not the goal itself.

Rajan explains this by saying that too many graduates with a post school qualification never get the opportunity to start their careers. Despite being talented, the only option for many of them will be to join the unemployment queue. This is partly due to the fact that businesses are reluctant to offer graduates their first job as they lack work history and references. In addition, few companies can fund the net loss that a graduate incurs in the first 12 months relative to their remuneration as they become job ready.

“EduPower’s model is designed to produce job ready graduates who we are confident in offering jobs,” says Rajan. “Certification of graduates is important but to really shift the future for these individuals, they need employment opportunities where they can apply the knowledge they have acquired,” Rajan adds. “By creating jobs where these individuals can thrive, they can start generating sustained economic activity and become valued members of our core middle income group, the foundation upon which our developing nation rests.”

Rajan believes that the best and most flexible training instruments to build this middle income group is learnerships. The combination of theory and workplace experience offer individuals with or without Grade 12 an opportunity to develop the work-readiness they need to become economically active upon graduation. Through learnerships, unemployed candidates can also earn while they learn.

Rajan concludes: “Learnerships really are life-changing for many people and through our absorption model, they are now also helping small businesses to flourish. That’s what makes the model so powerful – everyone in the model wins. The SME gets the kick-start it needs to grow and employ even more people, our learners secure long-term employment and our clients benefit because they unlock five bonus points on their B-BBEE scorecard for absorption.”

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Self-Belief: The final hurdle for Learnerships

5 reasons that learnerships deserve more recognition from learners and employers alike

It’s high time that learnerships get the credit they deserve. Powerful and effective training vehicles, learnerships have been one of the greatest catalysts for long-term employment in South Africa for the past 20 years.

Rajan Naidoo, the Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy, says that with a strong track record for transforming lives, he does not understand why learnerships continue to be undervalued and undermined by South Africans:

 

“Learners and sponsors alike must come to the realisation that learnerships have the greatest potential for closing the experience gap in South Africa.”

 

Rajan says that for unemployed individuals, learnerships provide valuable work experience and a formal qualification; while employers sponsoring learnerships gain concomitant SARS tax benefits and B-BBEE value, as well as a talent pool of individuals with relevant, quality skills.

“What more proof do we need that learnerships are an instrument of compounded value for all stakeholders?” he asks.

Rajan shares five reasons why learnerships should be a considered as South Africa’s most powerful catalysts for employment:

 

1. Meaningful training

Learnerships promote access to education and training as they allow unemployed South Africans, specially those with disabilities, to get started on their careers while studying a formal qualification. Candidates build their knowledge and gain work experience, providing them with the skills that are relevant to a specific occupation. They are also an effective way for employed people to advance their careers and become more valuable to their employers and the market as a whole.

2. Relevance to business needs

Learnerships are developed by the industry for the industry in consultation with all related stakeholders, making the learning programmes and qualifications relevant to the skills required for an occupation. In addition, businesses sponsoring learnerships have the opportunity to collaborate with training providers in customising learning programmes to meet specific workplace needs. For example, at EduPower, our learners work as an extension of our client’s contact centre providing customer services such as data washing and surveys. In this way, our clients get additional value from the learnerships they sponsor.

3. Improved skills and work performance

With 70% of a learnership being focussed on work experience, learnerships are more effective in delivering the practical application of learning than most other formal qualifications. Learners acquire new knowledge and skills which are immediately applied and tested in the workplace, giving companies sponsoring employee learnerships the opportunity to raise skills levels and improve work performance. A potent blend of training and immediate application of skills, learnerships are unparalleled in their ability to prepare young people for the world of work. You don’t have to look further than EduPower for evidence that learnerships are successful in this regard: 50% of EduPower’s full-time staff complement is made up of learners who have completed their qualifications. And through our unique absorption model, we intend to offer all our learner graduates permanent work opportunities in conjunction with our B-BBEE sponsor partners.

4. Recruitment pool of trained employees

A learnership is a tool for multi-skilling as it develops the competence of learners in every component of the work processes of an occupation. An example of this is the fact that many companies will not hire graduates from university until they gain experience and can demonstrate a work history. Learnerships are a mechanism for these talented young people to show their value and potential to future employers; while the employer does not risk permanent employment of a candidate without a work history.

5. Return on investment for training

Learnerships are of no cost to the learners and with SETA’s, B-BBEE sponsors, government and SARS providing a financial framework including learner remuneration, individuals can earn while they learn. For companies, the costs of learnerships can be recouped in many ways including higher returns from the Skills Levy, increased grant disbursements, tax rebates and points for Skills Development on their B-BBEE scorecards. So learnerships really are a win for business and a win for learners.

Rajan concludes: “The learnership route is by far South Africa’s most exciting employment enabler. They offer actionable opportunities through with individuals and companies can address our nation’s chronic skills shortage in order to build a capable labour force. As such, learnerships deserve more recognition on the education specturm. History will record whether or not we siezed this as an opportunity.”

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Good CEO’s build a business, great CEO’s leave a legacy

Three strategies that business leaders can use to impact economic transformation

A crucial part of any CEO’s legacy is the financial health of their company, but they are also responsible for ensuring that sustainability is embedded throughout their organisation, that business plays its rightful role as a lasting force for change in society.

Rajan Naidoo, the Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy, believes that CEO’s looking to create this legacy have a powerful tool in their business: B-BBEE.

“B-BBEE can be seen as racially divisive or as a great equaliser and the attitude a company adopts is often driven from the top,” Rajan explains. “If it is viewed by the CEO as an exercise in tick box compliance, that’s all B-BBEE will ever be. But those visionary leaders who see B-BBEE as an instrument for empowerment are creating opportunities that will benefit everyone in our society, either directly or
indirectly.”

Rajan believes that B-BBEE has the potential to enable a strong middle-income group that will positively impact South Africa’s economy and the social fabric of our nation. “B-BBEE is about empowering fellow members of our society to rise out of poverty so that they can play an active role in our economy,” he explains.

To strengthen the development of this much-needed middle-income group, Rajan encourages CEO’s to implement the following three tactics in their B-BBEE strategies:

1. Skills Development

Every developing economy is striving to build a foundational middle-income group as it is a stepping-stone for society to focus on scientific, technological, artistic and recreational endeavours that are otherwise constrained. Skills Development, a priority element on the B-BBEE scorecard, is the easiest way to create available skills in our society. It provides previously unemployed individuals – especially South Africa’s youth – with the opportunity to access relevant occupation-specific training and practical work experience off which they can start building sustainable careers. This creates meaningful change where it really matters.

 

2. Enterprise Development

While many companies are already sponsoring learnerships, the true intent of Skills Development is that the qualification will result in full-time employment. In the current economic climate however, most businesses are not in a position to offer their learners employment when they complete their qualifications. As a solution, EduPower’s innovative absorption model ensures that when unemployed learners graduate, they are placed into permanent jobs in small companies. Instead of adding this salary burden for the SME though, these jobs are funded in the short term by large companies through their enterprise development budgets.

 

3. Supplier Development

As the SME has a sponsored, skilled labour force, the chances that it will thrive during the first year of operations are far better. And as they grow, these organisations will employ more learners to boost their ranks, creating additional job opportunities. As these SME’s mature into year two of their operations, they can be supported through Supplier Development funding as corporates add these fledgling businesses to their supply chains and use them to procure goods or services.

Rajan says this simple model to support small businesses and incentivise employment can build economic momentum by raising more South African’s out of poverty. Not only does this benefit society as a whole, the resultant larger middle-income group provides a wider market for goods and services.

“A healthy economy underpinned by a solid middle-income group serves the interest of every member of our society and therefore B-BBEE must be viewed as empowerment in its broadest sense,” Rajan adds.

He concludes by saying that success as a leader has changed. “Integrating responsible practice into business strategy at a senior level ensures that empowerment through B-BBEE becomes a shared vision. Sustainability is a long game and it is those leaders who understand this whose businesses will be profitable, survive and thrive, while also having a positive impact on people and society – and this is surely the ultimate legacy for any CEO.”

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Skills Development: Good for Business, Good for South Africa’s Youth

Learnerships are the key to optimising employability

Unemployment is a massive challenge that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. Predictions are that 35% of South Africans won’t have jobs by December. This only accounts for people who are actively looking for jobs. The number of unemployed who’ve given up looking for work is much higher.

Rajan Naidoo, the Director of EduPower Skills Academy, says the reasons for this are varied. The majority of school leavers and youth in general are unemployed or unemployable. Many youth lack the relevant skills to be effective in the workplace and employers are often reluctant to take on inexperienced and poorly skilled youth.

Good for Business

For many years, the government has been attempting to redress unemployment through the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) codes. “To encourage companies to participate in much needed B-BBEE aligned Skills Development, there are a variety of tax incentives, allowances and rebates available,” says Rajan. “Skills Development can however deliver more than just the 25 points available for B-BBEE ratings. Companies that plan their skills programmes strategically can also build an effective talent pipeline.”

Providing the right skills is fundamental to young people’s ability to compete for quality jobs and Rajan believes that learnership programmes are the ideal vehicle for this. “Learnerships are a holistic solution that provide a blend of theory and practical experience over a 12 month period, resulting in an accredited qualification and marketable skills that actively increase the opportunities for our youth and the unemployed to succeed in transitioning into employment.”

An effective tool to develop work competence, learnerships equip participants with life and work readiness skills relevant to a specific occupation. Coupled with the fact that candidates entering the progammes earn while they learn, learnerships have become a popular choice for those people who do not have the option to enter tertiary education.

“An example of an occupation focused learnership is EduPower’s flagship Contact Centre model, a fully hosted SETA accredited learnership that combines classroom training and a deliberate focus on practical experience. Our learners work an eight-hour day, five days a week in a custom-built contact centre where they receive ongoing mentoring and support as they work on live campaigns, not simulations,” says Rajan.

Work readiness

While theoretical training and on-the-job experience are critical components of learnerships, the development of soft skills are also a key focus. Rajan explains “Most learners have either just completed school or have been unemployed and they haven’t had the opportunity to learn practical, interpersonal skills such as communication, teamwork or problem solving. Learnerships work on developing these skills so that upon completion, candidates are prepared for the world of work.”

 

Encouraging Entrepreneurship

Private sector job creation cannot keep pace with the demand for jobs. Rajan believes that the only answer for our youth is to create strong entrepreneurs. Unique in its approach, EduPower offers an entrepreneurship programme that helps its learners identify business opportunities and grow their business skills.

 

“Our incubator eliminates many of the traditional costs related to running a company and greatly increases the entrepreneur’s chances of survival and sustainability beyond the programme,” Rajan explains.

 

The point of learnerships is to improve employability and each programme begins with the end in mind – building skills that lead to sustainable career opportunities. While some companies use their learnerships as a 12-month screening process to recruit for their talent pipeline, the majority of learnership graduates re-enter the job market. “We do our best to help our learners secure employment either through our incubator or our network of partner companies. We place as many people as possible as it not only unlocks five bonus points for absorption for our clients, it’s also important to us to close the loop for our learners,” he says.

Rajan concludes by saying that through increased access to the training of portable skills, learnerships are part of the solution to rectifying socio-economic inequalities by bolstering employment opportunities and in so doing, increase employability and economic growth. Skills development is the critical first step ensuring that South Africa is built on a solid and sustainable foundation.

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