Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande has made a call to all employers to give young people, who are on internship programmes, the necessary experience during their placement.
Minister Nzimande said on Tuesday that internships are not as structured as learnerships, as employers assume that much of the theoretical learning for an occupation is already in place.
Addressing The New Age/SABC business briefing, he said he was also concerned about the quality of training received by these learners in certain workplaces, where they spend time in areas not related to the theory they have learnt.
“The aim of the internship is to provide real life work experience. One of the criticisms of internships is that they can be abused and used for cheap labour but in general, the experience individuals get in such programmes results in them obtaining employment.
“I have already instructed the department that there be a study conducted in this area to understand the life experiences of these young learners at workplaces,” Minister Nzimande said.
He said the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) have played a role in expanding employment opportunities through their Learnership Programmes.
However, he said these programmes have proved extremely effective, even though they are expensive and have not been offered in large enough numbers to make a big impact.
The Minister attributed the success of the learnerships to partnerships between employers, SETAs and training providers, where an individual obtains both theoretical and practical training as well as real life work experience.
He said employers have been very positive about the impact of learnerships, even though they complain about how complicated this has become – something the department is looking to address.
“Many in the policy space see learnerships as third-class alternatives and yet they have a higher placement rate than any other programme at college.
“Eighty-six percent of those who completed a learnership were employed, the majority immediately after completing the learnership. This is even higher than the 76% placement rate after an apprenticeship,” the Minister said.
A report by the Human Sciences Research Council — the Developing Skills and Capabilities through the Learnership and Apprenticeship Pathway Systems Synthesis Report — indicates that college graduates that proceed to learnerships are more successful at finding employment than those that do not.
Minister Nzimande said the department actively increases targets on learnerships. For the current financial year, SETAs have targeted more than 43 000 spaces for unemployed individuals entering learnerships.
Meanwhile, the Minister said he was happy to hear that in the current calendar year, SETAs are contributing more than R500 million to bursaries through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
On 4 November 2014, the department published a list of occupations that are in high demand and widely consulted with SETAs, given the substantial amount set aside for bursaries.
“These bursaries must be aligned with both sector and country priorities, as also contained in the list of occupations in high demand,” said Minister Nzimande