A policy framework for learnerships
By: DR Denise Meyerson; Denise Meyerson can be contacted on
The National Skills Strategy has identified learnerships as a key route to achieving human resource targets on a macro-economic level. These include improvements in employment opportunities, re-skilling the workplace and replacing traditional restrictive apprenticeships with broader-based skills projects.
Organisations willing to embark on the learnership route need to consider what would be contained in a learnership Policy. This policy would guide the implementation process and would provide an effective way of evaluating whether learnerships are indeed contributing to the strategic aims of the organization.
At the recent MCI National Conference on Learnerships, delegates brainstormed the components of a learnership policy. The following pointers provide a suggested framework for a policy. Further discussion would be required amongst all stakeholders to clarify and flesh out issues:
2. Policy framework
A. Preamble or Preface
The preamble should include brief explanations about the following:
> The National Skills Strategy, NQFobjectives, and strategic priorities for the economic sector the company is part of
> Definition of what constitutes a learnership in your company
> Statement of the business rationale and goals for the use of learnerships as part of the people development process in the organisation
List definitions of concepts that could lead to disputes at a later stage. For example NQF qualifications, assessment, and learnership contracts all require clearly thought-through definitions. Refer to the Department of Labour and SAQA websites for clarification.
Stipulate whether the learnership will be available for existing employees, as well as for previously unemployed learners. Should both categories be considered for selection, it might be a suggestion to write two policy documents, even though there will be duplication.
State the purpose of the policy in terms of informing, advising and setting criteria for offering learnerships.
E. Roles, Responsibilities and Authority
The custodian of the learnership would need to be named and the responsibilities of all role players would need to be outlined:
> Human Resources (HR)
> Line Management
> Learnership coordinators
> Liaison person with the SETA
> Recognition of prior learning (RPL) advisors; assessment moderators; assessors
> Recruitment specialists
Ethics have become a key factor of strong corporate governance and would also need to play a role in governing the practical implementation of learnerships. A code of conduct can be used to spell out the rights and responsibilities of each role player.
F. Contractual obligations
Seta learnerships for party contracts to be scrutinised by legal eyes, signatories to include Seta representatives, learners (unless under 21 years old), provider and workplace.
A further fixed term employment contract to be signed between learnership candidate and the workplace ‘employer’.
(Note: Watch out within the formal learnership agreement for the following possible “danger” spots: keep wording as light as possible and do not rush into signing before careful scrutiny and weighing of implications of all clauses).
G. Learnership identification
An appropriate method of determining suitability of Learnerships for the organisation, sourcing these learnerships and ensuring that the Learnership is a more viable solution to the development requirements rather than a Skills Programme.
This would need to be agreed on a consultative basis with all stakeholders. The curriculum, the relationship between the sectoral need and the in-house training need, as well as the link to the company performance management system would need to be agreed.
H. Selection Process
A defined selection process for applicants needs to be spelled out: Who could apply (bearing in mind equity targets), advertising of learnership positions, and the components of a formal selection process.
I. Recognition of prior learning (RPL) process
The provision for RPL in order to recognise prior achievement is the right of all entrants who bring skills and knowledge with them. The RPL process, and it’s link to the SAQA framework and levels, however, needs to be clarified.
The pay procedure of the learner needs to be clearly defined, including all administrative requirements for time, and attendance; record accessing of Seta funds, payment of the provider.
K. Record Keeping
A process needs to be identified to ensure that rewards are accurately maintained for a period of x years, and are in accordance with ETQA requirements.
L. Breach of contract
There are already many examples of how Learnerships can go horribly wrong from candidates who have dropped out to providers who have gone out of business. These clauses should be drafted with extreme care and possibly with the aid of legal advice.
M. Candidates with special needs
Candidates who are perhaps disabled or who have other special requirements, need to be catered for within the system; remember to link the Employment Equity Goals for bringing people with disabilities into formal employment with the goals of the learnership process for the company.
N. Language policy
In what language will the learnership be offered? Will provision be made for interpreters?
A statement about the means of guaranteeing that all assessment, and other relevant information on candidates is retained on a confidential basis.
P. Evaluation and Review
Evaluation refers to measurable benefits derived from offering learnerships. Have tax incentives been received? Have candidates climbed the NQF ladder? Has the organisation moved ahead in any area? Training is all about ensuring that change takes place – does the organisation’s learnerships fulfil the criteria?
Q. Appendices: provide a separate procedure manual that spells out the steps for:
> An appeals and disputes procedure
> Process for liasing with the Seta, the ETQA, the provider
> Scheduling procedure for training and workplace experience
> Record-keeping documentation
> Assessment process