With all the concern about the pending changes to the future of private providers, the uncertainty of the future of learnerships and the proposed roll-out of the National Artisan Moderating Body (NAMB) it is ironic that the demand for learnerships with a technical focus is growing exponentially. Judging by the trends below (obtained via trend analysis examining online searches in South Africa over the last 12 months), the demand is quite specifically focused on a limited number of organisations specifically SASOL, Eskom and Transnet who offer more technically-focused learnerships in keeping with the kind of services and projects that they run. The last one, which came as no surprise was government. With Minister Nzimande’s drive to ensure that the government departments and parastatal machinery play their role in skills development by becoming learning organisations and of course by supporting the NSDS 3 vision.
There areas that have been quite surprising are the services-type industry learnerships which did not even make a showing in the top categories of online search. Here I expected the banks and at least some of the top services type companies such as SAB-Miller to feature quite strongly, but they did not. This might support the reality that even well-resourced private sector organisations cannot be the only skills development engines in the economy and that partnerships are the key to addressing some of the urgent skills issues.
|Rising searches for learnerships|
|learnerships for 2012||Breakout|
|eskom learnerships 2011||300%|
|learnerships for 2011||90%|
(Google trends for analysis: rising trend, 27/12/2011).
The results are interesting because they do show that they support the notion that we are a country starved of technical, trade-related and artisanal programmes. Learners keen on obtaining a trade qualification have few options and the lack of geographic coverage and suitable workplaces have also stunted the states as well as the private sectors ability to provide artisan and trade related interventions equitably across South Africa. Although I would also say that the uncertainty around where the trades and apprenticeship system sits within the broader skills development and education framework also clouds the already murky waters. Learnerships currently dominate the education and training sector, whilst trades and apprenticeships have almost fallen into disuse in conversations that focus on occupational education and training programmes.
Could this be the beginning of the opportunity to expand artisan training interventions or is it just recognition that their (Eskom, SASOl and Transnet) learnerships are recognised as industry leaders and that the public sector is going to be the major driver of learnerships as part of its broader developmental approach to the economy and skills. Judging by the online trends analysis the use of learnership as a search term outstrips apprenticeship quite strongly as noted by the 12 month trend analysis depicted below.
Considering we are on the cusp of a large recruitment of the 2011 matriculants exiting the schools into the labour market or into the post-school education and training environment, there are at least funded opportunities for them via the National Student Financial Assistance Scheme at least in public FET colleges and Public Higher Education Institutions. The obvious gap in this equation is the artisan training and where it resides as an exploitable opportunity for these learners. Are apprenticeships readily accessible for these learners?
Where are we really with the formation and implementation of the National Artisan Moderating Body? Are technically oriented learnerships just really a form of artisan type programme (albeit a much shorter programme)? Has that confused the issue even further? The discussions regarding the implementation of the QCTO have been very focused on the future of private providers and private provision, but one of the obvious areas that has been missed is the the trades component and its role as the quality council responsible for the quality assurance of trades. This lack of certainty is hampering skills development in sectors and labour markets that have traditionally had high levels of trade and apprenticeship enrollments.