A LOT of learners, who are hosted by private training companies for learnerships, are not getting the work experience that’s needed. Photo by fauxels from Pexels
A LOT of learners, who are hosted by private training companies for learnerships, are not getting the work experience that’s needed. Photo by fauxels from Pexels

5 red flags to watch out for with learnerships

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Jun 1, 2021

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DURBAN – Learnerships are on-the-job learning programmes that incorporate theory and practical elements supported by structured or institutional learning, and leads to a NQF qualification.

A learnership does not require experience or qualifications, in fact you are set up to get both during the learnership experience – which makes this type of learning programme a sought-after opportunity.

Meanwhile, the importance of skills development has fuelled a multi-billion rand training industry that’s dominated by private companies, and 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.

Sharp says learnerships hosted at the employer or the “sponsor” company’s premises are above reproach. The issue, however, comes in with hosted learnerships, where learners are spending the full 12-month duration of the learnership at the training provider’s premises.

“A lot of learners who are hosted by private training companies are simply not getting the work experience that’s needed.

“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.”

Moreover, Sharp says that these sub-standard learnerships also cheat Sars, which continues to pay out billions in Section 12H and ETI (employment tax incentive) 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,” says Sharp.

To address the quality of learnerships, Sharp believes that the sponsoring companies have to become more closely involved.

Sharp outlines five red flags that will indicate if your training provider is not delivering.

Price Point

Learnerships are designed to provide a learner with 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.

And in order 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. So, if your sponsor 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.

Your learnership duration is less than 12 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, the learner has to complete a minimum of 1 200 hours of work experience – which is best achieved over a 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.

Unable to meet with learners

As the sponsor company, 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 run-around as none of your learners can be found, this is your third red flag.

The stipend is below minimum wage

All unemployed people selected for a learnership are paid a learner allowance or stipend by the sponsoring company. While the precise amount varies per sector, a stipend is intended to cover basic 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 you are only working one or two days, each week.


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 duration.

Employers that choose to outsource their learnerships for People with Disabilities or the unemployed are often unable to provide employment, and these learners are absorbed by the training company. If your training company will not absorb any of your learners, this is your fifth and final red flag.

Sean says 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.”

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