The A to Z of Implementing Learnerships

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Are you thinking about implementing a Learnership in your workplace, but don’t know where to start? Do you get confused when people speak about funding that can be done in various ways? Do you know what the benefits of implementing a Learnership are? Below is some critical information you may need to consider before committing to implementing learnerships:

What is a Learnership? A learnership is a work based learning programme that leads to an NQF registered qualification – The learner will spend some time learning theory in a classroom setting and some time learning practical skills in the workplace. Learnerships are much more practical than theoretical, to be exact 30% theory and 70% practical, so expect your learners to be out of the workplace for a few days a month. Learnership qualifications are directly related to an occupation or field of work – so ensure you choose the right one.

The aim of Learnerships is to transform learners into skilled, experienced and productive workers who will be useful to employers and contribute to the South African Economy.

What are the benefits of a Learnership?

  • Significant points for B-BBEE on the Skills Development Element

  • Companies will have a more competitive edge within the Labour Market due to efficient and skilled labour

  • Significant Tax Savings (Tax Incentives)

  • Employee Tax Incentive (ETI) benefits if youth are promoted

  • Addressing the Scarce and Critical skills within the different sectors of South Africa, thereby enabling more people to become employable

  • SETA Funding –reduced employer spend on training

  • Incentives provide opportunities to up-skill, re-skill and access to further learning for all employees irrespective of age or race.

  • Promotion abilities for staff members due to increase knowledge and skills

  • Improved Succession planning possibilities

  • Assists with Affirmative Action implementation

Why do you want to implement a Learnership?

Before you embark on the journey of Learnerships, you need to ask yourself WHY you are going the Learnership route. Learnerships could be implemented in different ways and every Learnership has different demands, requirements and benefits. You can choose if you would like to be the Host or Lead Employer as well as choose the funding route: Self-funded or SETA Funded. By implementing Strategic Management meetings, Companies can identify the motivation behind the Learnership project. There may be a need to implement Learnerships because of B-BBEE requirements, or perhaps you are looking at Hosting learners at a very low cost, whatever the reason – just ensure that you know WHY you are implementing Learnerships.

Implementing a Learnership:

First, you need to identify if your organization will need to apply for funding or if your organization would prefer to self-fund the learnership. Funding your own learnership will offer far more choices such as the number and type of learners (employed or unemployed), the qualification, the duration and start date of the project as well as the SETA the qualification is registered under. Although learners need to be registered at the SETA and standard verification processes are applied, there is far more flexibility in this model

Learnerships funded by the SETA are more complex, prescriptive and rigged. Most SETA’s only have specific window periods for application of Learnerships. The application process is time consuming, rigorous and admin intensive. Every SETA will provide their own requirements and instructions on how to apply for Learnerships. SETA funded Learnerships will speak to the scarce and critical skills of that specific industry as specified in the Sector Skills Plan, as well as the requirements as set out in the Discretionary Grant policy. The SETA will accept or decline the application based on these specifications and the motivation provided by the Lead Employer. The SETA will communicate the available Learnership programmes on their Website, where all employers who have submitted their WSP will be eligible to apply.. It is very important to understand that funding by the SETA is at their discretion.

Self-funded VS Cash Grants by the SETA:

Self-funded Learnerships are fully funded by the lead employer. SETA Funded Learnerships are funded by the SETA, but payment may be delayed and initial investment into the learnership programme is required by the employer – although the employer will be reimbursed on training fees and stipends as per the funding stipulations. SETA Funded learnerships require a significant amount of patience, paperwork and enthusiasm.

What is a Tax allowance?

The tax allowance was introduced to encourage skills development and job creation and it assists businesses by significantly reducing the cost of training.

The following tax allowances are available when your company implements a Learnership. Companies should ensure that they do intensive research about the tax allowances by getting all the relevant information from SARS to eliminate any disappointment during the learnership programme.

The budget created by withholding Taxes payable to SARS biannually is always claimed retrospectively. It is thus very important to have the cash available to fund the Learnership upfront. Major risks are learner drop out and achievement of competence, as incentives are only paid while the learner is still on the programme and has passed successfully when the programme ends.

Why were Employment Tax Incentives created?

The Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) was introduced to tackle high youth unemployment, encourage employers to hire youth or job seekers with little experience, and finally to get workers more experienced to improve further job opportunities.

What is the criteria to qualify for Employment Tax Incentives?

  • The individual needs to be a citizen of South Africa

  • Aged between 18 -29; and

  • Earn a maximum of R6 000 per month

  • Domestic workers and connected persons do not qualify for ETI

What is the ETI?

The incentives is tiered according to monthly remuneration and is only available for a maximum of 24 months. When you have a look at the ETI periods, it is broken up into 2 x 12 months periods.

What are the benefits and responsibilities of a Lead or Host Employer?

You need to decide if you will be the Lead or Host Employer for the learnership project. The Lead Employer is the vehicle between the SETA, training provider and the Learner. When the Learnership is funded by the SETA, the Lead Employer is required to pay the stipends to the learners using their own payroll system and send the proof of payment to the training provider (unless the Lead Employer decided to outsource the payroll). The training provider is responsible for implementing the theoretical training, assessment and moderation required to obtain the qualification as well as to gather and submit the relevant documentation to the SETA for approval, before stipend reimbursement can be made to the Lead Employer.

Should the Lead Employer not be in a position to host the learners at their respective company, dependent on the SETA, they can choose to work with a Host Employer who will provide the necessary workplace experience. . The main responsibility of the Host Employer is to ensure that the learner is gaining the required workplace experience and skills in a safe working environment. They need to provide workplace mentors who maintain regular contact with the learner and ensure that the theory is applied in practice.

Using the questions below will help you to ensure that you are on the right track:

  • Why implement a Learnership?

  • Have you chosen your Learnership Programme?

  • Will the company or Seta fund the Learnership?

  • Are you going to apply to be the Lead and Host Employer or not?

  • Who will be the training provider?

  • Who will source the Learners? The company or Recruitment Agency?

  • Are you applying for Employed or Unemployed Learnerships?

  • Have you identified Mentors?

  • Who will be responsible for the admin duties?

  • Have you done research and understand how to claim your tax allowance and ETI?

When working towards a goal, we need to use small steps at a time. Implementing Learnerships within your workplace will build towards a better South Africa and could make you money in the process.

Aristotle once said: Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it. Men come to be builders for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp.

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