Empowering Tomorrow’s Workforce: Corporate South Africa’s Vital Role in Skills Development


As the Matric Class of 2023 nears the conclusion of their school career, a few of these learners will recognise Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) as a section in Business Studies. However, B-BBEE – and how companies decide to implement their Skills Development initiatives – may be the defining factor that determines some of these young people’s career prospects and future.

“The role that the private sector plays in the absorption of matriculants is critical,” says Rajan Naidoo, the Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy. “While a few companies may choose to hire high school graduates directly into entry-level roles, others will offer learnerships, allowing matriculants and unemployed individuals to develop their skills before entering the workplace.”

Private Sector Funding

Learnerships are a part of the critical role that the private sector plays in shaping Skills Development in South Africa. A valuable bridge between education and employment, learnerships are structured training programmes that provide both theoretical knowledge and work experience, leading to nationally recognised accredited qualifications.

“When candidates enrol in a learnership they enter into a three-way, symbiotic partnership,” Naidoo explains. “Companies provide financial support and guidance in developing learnerships, while training providers deliver the actual training. This triad is completed by the learners who are the direct beneficiaries, as they will gain knowledge and skills.” Naidoo notes that the sponsorship of learnerships is becoming increasingly popular with organisations as they can be leveraged in various ways to maintain corporate competitiveness. He outlines the top five reasons contributing to its appeal:

1. Building a Talent Pipeline

One of the key benefits of learnerships for businesses is the ability to build a talent pipeline. By participating in the design and implementation of training programmes, companies can tailor the curriculum and work experience to match their requirements and even their company culture. This results in a pool of skilled, job-ready candidates who are well-versed in the company’s operations, systems and values. By building this organisational capacity, businesses can reduce recruitment costs and shorten the time it takes to onboard and train new employees.

2. B-BBEE Points

Learnerships can play a significant role in helping companies earn B-BBEE points. By participating in skills development and training initiatives such as learnerships for unemployed individuals and people with disabilities, companies can earn the maximum points available under Skills Development. This, in turn, enhances their overall B-BBEE status, making them more attractive partners for government and corporate contracts.

3. Brand Reputation

Investing in skills development through learnerships is not just about meeting government requirements; it also positively impacts a company’s brand reputation. When a business is perceived as committed to empowering its workforce and the broader community, it gains a competitive edge. To illustrate:

  • Attracting Top Talent: Companies that offer opportunities for skills development and career advancement tend to attract and retain top talent as employee satisfaction levels rise when a company invests in their growth.
  • Employee Morale: Seeing their company investing in learnerships and contributing to community and societal progress, can boost overall employee morale and pride.
  • Social Responsibility: Investing in learnerships demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility, a value which not only resonates with employees in terms of company culture but customers too, who may prefer to support organisations with community-focused initiatives.
  • Positive Image: Being actively involved in Skills Development programmes can deliver positive media coverage, boosting a company’s reputation as a responsible and caring organisation.

Good for Business

The class of 2023, like those before them, will face a dynamic and competitive job market. Their ability to adapt, grow and thrive within this evolving landscape will depend in no small part on the opportunities provided by the private sector. By embracing and offering learnerships, businesses become architects of these opportunities, building a talent pipeline that feeds their needs and, in the process, strengthens the broader workforce and the social and economic well-being of our nation.

Rajan Naidoo, the Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy.