Multiple learnership registrations add to South Africa’s youth unemployment woes
Learnerships are South Africa’s most powerful skills development mechanism but they could be playing
an even greater role in eradicating youth unemployment. Unfortunately, some dishonest learners are
defrauding the system by enrolling for multiple learnerships at the same time.
Rajan Naidoo, the Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy, says this unscrupulous behaviour is
not only unlawful, but the greater crime is that it’s robbing other young people who are serious about
gaining formal occupational qualifications of learning opportunities.
“We have no idea how many people are involved but we know for a fact that an increasing number of
learners are negatively exploiting the gaps in the learnership system for financial gain. This is outright
fraud and if they are caught, there must be repercussions,” states Naidoo. “Sadly, the real victims of this
crime are the youngsters who may never have the opportunity to enrol for a learnership because there
are none available.”
According to Naidoo, there are three ways that candidates are swindling the learnership system:
- The most common reason why people register for multiple learnerships is to illegally benefit from
the compounded stipend. Unfortunately, many are successful in this conduct as the SETA’s work
independently of each other and there is no single database that records all learnership
registrations. Learners can and are exploiting this weakness.
- There has also been a trend toward funding People with Disabilities (PWDs) for unemployed
learnerships. As the community of PWDs is small relative to the general population, this has caused
demand to outstrip the supply of candidates, leading to some unintended consequences. Some
able-bodied learners find complicit partners in the medical industry and “forge” medical certificates
to present themselves as disabled. In addition, learners with a medically certified disability
sometimes register for more than one learnership concurrently because of the demand for these
- Many learners register for a learnership but do not attend classes or have work experience. Some
training providers enable this type of behaviour by allowing and encouraging learners to be absent
for most of the learnership. Even worse, they do not ensure that the learners get appropriate work
experience and as learnerships have a monetary value for these training providers, all social value is
Naidoo believes that to optimize the positive impact of learnerships, all role players in the learnership
value chain need to play their part.
“The SETAs and the QCTO must work in a coordinated manner to ensure databases are synchronised to
prevent learners from multiple concurrent registrations,” he says. “However, the main responsibility
falls on the funder of the learnerships.”
Learnerships are financed primarily through corporate B-BBEE spend, SETAs, other government
departments and private NGOs, and Naidoo believes the sponsor’s role cannot be underestimated in
ensuring the full and true social and economic value of a learnership.
“More funders are becoming more sensitized to the real value of learnerships, which is the long-term
employability of the beneficiaries. However, the onus is on funders to select the right training provider
with a value system that is beyond reproach and that offers mentorship and life skills coaching to assist
learners to make better choices.”
The best way, however, to eradicate multiple learnership registrations are fully hosted learnerships, a
system that has been implemented at EduPower since its inception.
“To ensure that our learners are work-ready when they graduate, we operate as a work environment.
Learners come to “work” five days a week and work a full day. We also implement regular labour law
practices such as leave applications and sick leave to help them build the skills they need for a
sustainable and successful career!” Naidoo adds.
Learnerships have been transforming lives for over 25 years but to optimise the positive impact they can
make, we need to ensure all partners in the value chain come together to remove corrupt behaviour and