Providing education in the form of learnerships, apprenticeships or internships should not be regarded as merely a means of achieving skills development points or ensuring a good broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) rating, but rather as a means of benefiting and strengthening the skills of our population and our economy, says mineral processing company Multotec training and development manager Janine James.
Multotec has been managing learnerships for not only in-house staff but also external learners since 2016 – having supported about 280 leaners to date. Significantly, less than a 5% learner drop-out rate has been maintained, and James attributes this to the level of commitment applied by the company.
Multotec aims to take in another 60 learners this year – of whom about half will be in-house employees, and learners from outside completing the intake. James says the majority of external learnerships are awarded to black women.
She adds that the in-house learnership programme has enabled Multotec staff to earn qualifications, which have previously been out of reach for employees and which has sometimes led to promotion in the company. Some individuals have even been able to continue their education through the company’s bursary programme.
“Though these programmes, our staff are gaining a better understanding of our sector, industry, company, products, quality and safety, and how they play a role in the end-solution. They are learning key life skills as well.”
Multotec is doing the same for the external learners, which includes those with disabilities. In many cases, the company has been able to absorb these learners into the organisation, says James.
“Although it does contribute to our BBBEE scorecard, we see it as contributing to uplifting the skills of the country. We’d like to provide opportunities beyond those provided internally to help South Africans become more employable,” she says.
The recruitment process is rather stringent to ensure the best chance of success among the learners, James adds. Depending on the National Qualification Framework (NQF) level of the learnership being applied for, certain minimum education levels might be a requirement.
However, James notes that one of the most important qualifiers is competence in English, numeracy and learning potential – depending on the learnership.
Thereafter, applicants are interviewed and then shortlisted for management approval.
External learners are paid a stipend to ensure that they can make ends meet while learning.
“The minimum stipends are set by the various sector education and training authorities, but we try to pay above the minimum because it is important to remain competitive and try to retain learners,” she says.
It is Multotec’s aim is to absorb the external learners into the company, and about 18 have made the transition to permanent employment in the company since 2016.
She says the prospect of upskilling people, only to have them employed by competitors, had to be considered in 2016, when the learnership programmes were first introduced.
“We realised then that we couldn’t absorb everyone. We simply didn’t have the capacity. We decided that the investment in these learners is our way of contributing to the skills development of our population and the growth of the country and its economy, rather than merely a means of increasing our staff roster,” James says.
Currently, the majority of the learnerships are offered at Multotec’s Johannesburg offices.
“Our aim is to make these programmes more easily available to our national sites, so that our employees in those communities have the same opportunities to positively impact on the areas where our mining customers operate.”
She stresses that none of the learnerships would be possible without the commitment from the executive team and from job coaches, who are senior Multotec employees who act as mentors during the programme.