Employed learnerships - a silver bullet for your skills development spend!

15 September 2022 1154
“For most businesses the skills development element is not only a big headache but one of the most costly components of their BEE scorecard. An option to reduce some of this cost is employed learnerships, but some key success factors should be kept in mind.”

For many businesses, meeting their skills development target is a big headache and a costly exercise, particularly where use is made of external learnerships. Another option which can be a great deal more cost-effective is making use of employed learnerships where a business enrols their own employees in formal learnership programmes. With such employed learnerships, the business is able to recognise the salaries of its employees placed on learnerships towards its skills spend target and invest in the training of its staff.

This sounds like a no brainer! But then why do businesses not make use of such employed learnerships more regularly. A few key reasons could be:

  • The business is worried that employees will not successfully complete the learnerships, compromising the expenditure made. Central to such fear is the time required to complete the learnership and whether employees will be motivated to complete their learnership.
  • Unavailability of suitable or diverse learnership programmes that are relevant or of value to a business.
  • Insufficient qualifying employees that can be placed on a learnership and will count towards the BEE scorecard of the business.
Before we deal with these concerns, it’s appropriate to unpack why employed learnerships could be beneficial for your business. Firstly, enrolling your employees allows you to recognise the total salary of your employees placed on learnerships as skills spend, allowing you to deduct this from your skills development target. With the skills development target for larger companies standing at 6% of total annual payroll, many companies simply cannot afford to spend the skills development target on training. By making use of employed learnerships reaching this target can now be possible. In addition, you can deduct between R80,000 to R120,000 from your taxable income for every learnership providing an additional tax benefit to utilizing learnerships, all whilst increasing the skill-level of your employees. A potential win for all.

In reality, employees can easily become demotivated and fail to complete a learnership, leaving businesses once burned, twice shy from considering employed learnerships again. Yet, this does not have to be so. The following can be considered as good practice tips that can most definitely contribute towards the successful implementation of employed learnerships at your business:

Make it voluntary – don’t force employees to be placed on a learnership, but rather make it a voluntary initiative for employees. Nobody enjoys being forced to do something!

Make it exclusive – make access exclusive by incorporating it in your performance incentive programme for employees granting access exclusively to employees that performed well during the year. This will encourage employees to want to be part of the initiative and see it as a reward.

Incentivise performance – incentivise learners who successfully complete their learnership programme by way of bonus, promotion or another form of reward. Remember a bonus payment could also be structured to count towards the overall BEE spend of the project and thus benefit both the business and the employee. 

Encourage cooperation – encourage line managers and supervisors to buy-in to the project beforehand. These managers play a crucial role in the success of learnerships as they can either work against the employee or with them. Employees on a learnership will have additional responsibilities and time management pressures, and cooperation and positivity from managers will go a long way in making employees feel comfortable in managing the additional work and stress of a learnership.

Time off – the business must afford employees with time off during office hours to attend classes and to complete workplace tasks and assignments relating to the programme. As this may impact on productivity, proper consultation with the training provider is a must to ensure that employee training schedules are understood and coordinated for the least possible impact. What should not happen is that the employee is forced to work exclusively after hours.

Programme alignment – this is an easily overlooked element, and requires that the subject matter of the learnership aligns with the career path of the employee and that of the business. By selecting providers that offer a range of programmes, even programmes customized to the industry of your business, will ensure far greater value from the learnership programme for both employee and your business. 


Disclaimer: This article is the personal opinion/view of the author(s) and is not necessarily that of the firm. The content is provided for information only and should not be seen as an exact or complete exposition of the law. Accordingly, no reliance should be placed on the content for any reason whatsoever and no action should be taken on the basis thereof unless its application and accuracy has been confirmed by a legal advisor. The firm and author(s) cannot be held liable for any prejudice or damage resulting from action taken on the basis of this content without further written confirmation by the author(s). 

Related Sectors: Training & Development