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.”
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 on 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 offers 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.”