Corporate funding is central to developing youth skills  in South Africa
Prudence Mathebula, co-founder, and managing director of Dynamic DNA

The number of South Africans under the age of 35 who are either not in full time work or education is at an all-time high. Even more worryingly though, are warnings that these figures are likely to get a lot worse in the coming months and years, before getting any better. 

Even though another youth month has come and gone, it is imperative that the spotlight on youth unemployment is not dimmed for a second longer. 

With the business and IT world crying out for affordable, available, well-skilled, reliable and workplace ready employees, the answer seems to lie in corporate-funded learnerships. Yet a lack of internal capacity or the know-how to properly host learners coupled with the perception that learnerships are expensive and time-consuming means both the youth and the business world are losing out on a massive opportunity.  

Queue Singular Systems, a specialist company offering tailor made software solutions for clients in the financial sector. For the third consecutive year, they have partnered with Dynamic DNA, a training and skills development provider to help relieve the burden of learnerships. 

As part of their learnerships, youngsters begin with intensive theoretical learning administered by Dynamic DNA as part of a NQF level 3 to 6 qualification. They then have the chance to put this knowledge into practice during a six-month paid learnership at Singular Systems. 

Mthandazo Mabena, analyst at Singular Systems and Prudence Mathebula, co-founder, and managing director of Dynamic DNA unpack five main benefits companies get from funding these learnerships.  

Part of the solution, not the problem 

“We all know that South Africa’s unemployment rate is currently ridiculously high, but we cannot solely rely on the government to make things better, he says. “I strongly believe that everyone has a role to play in positively contributing to our economy and future of our country.”

At Singular Systems, they sat down and worked out how they could contribute to solving the current situation through learnerships. “We are very passionate about growing, naturing and giving young people opportunities. It isn’t a tick box exercise for us, and we don’t have a production plant of learnerships passing through our company. Instead, we only want to put someone on a learnership if we have the intention of taking them on permanently afterwards, as this is the only way of us helping to improve our unemployment rate. Encouraging someone to get an NQF without a job being offered afterwards is counterproductive.”

Address the ICT skills shortage head on

As Singular works in the IT sector, they understand the problems and concerns of the market better than anyone else. “There is an acute shortage of expert ICT skills in South Africa, which is a real shame as I really think we could benefit from outsourcing these skills to the western world,” says Mabena.

“I am very passionate about empowering workers and giving them a purpose. From our solutions architects, business analysts and engineers to our developers and project managers, all our services are done inhouse, and our teams use global programmes like Microsoft SQL, C Sharp, HTML, Java html, .net. For us to be ahead of the game, we cannot limit our service offering either so if a client requires assistance with Python for example, then we upskill our teams so that they are trained to use Python. The IT sector is changing rapidly, so it is essential that people are utilising their skills, so they don’t become redundant. “

Create a talent pipeline within your own organisation. 

Funding a learnership allows you to benefit from trained talent that possess scarce IT skills and work-ready support. Rather than go out and recruit juniors from within the market, Singular Systems create them inhouse, mentoring them, and giving them the support and tools to become the best software developers in the country, if not the world. 

He adds, “Thanks to the help and guidance of Dynamic DNA we have crafted a well-structured career path for those on our learnerships. The learners that we took on two years ago as trainee programmers are now fully qualified developers, earning double the amount than when they had started. There is usually a huge staff turnover during the learnership itself but with a clear path for progression, everyone knows where they stand and where they are going.”

Gain maximum return on skills investment with minimum spend 

According to Mathebula businesses can save more than 60 percent on the training costs associated with a learnership. You can also access skills funding, like tax rebates and pivotal discretionary and mandatory grants that again will save you time and positively contribute to your bottom line. 

“For a medium sized company like ours, we only take about 15 learnerships each year, because I know that, even if none drop out, I can absorb all of them in my business after the learnership ends,” adds Mabena. “Remember, graduates are still a trainee at junior entry level at the end of their learnership and it can take another six to eight months before that person is properly ready to bill clients. It is a long road, but once there, the return on investment cannot me matched.”

Improve your B-BBEE scorecard

Finally, Mathebula says that you can use a learnership to bolster your BBBEE compliance mandates whilst leveraging your scarce skills gap in the following areas: skills development, management control, employment equity, socio economic development, enterprise, and supplier development. 

“We align our learnerships to our BBEEE requirements, with graduates coming to us from a mixture of demographics including African, People of Colour, Indian, African - able bodied and disabled,” says Mabena. “If you choose to partner with a training provider to help administer your learnerships, then make sure they have the right BEE credentials. Dynamic DNA for example, is a 51 percent black, female-owned, B-BBEE level 2 accredited QSE training and skills development provider.

Specialist companies like Dynamic DNA assist with end-to-end services - from SETA grant applications, assistance with WSP/ATR, recruiting, contracting, project management to workplace simulations, assessment moderation, SETA reporting, and learner employment. It really is a no brainer to alleviating our skills gap and youth unemployment rate.”