Transforming Youth Employability Through Innovation


As South Africa continues to grapple with its massive youth (15-34 years) unemployment rate of 4.7 million individuals (Q4 2023), there is a critical need for innovative approaches to skills development and employability.  Rajan Naidoo, Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy views learnerships as an excellent platform for creative training methodologies thereby, paving the way for a more agile and adaptable workforce.

He believes that innovation in learnerships is changing the skillset employers expect from first-time job seekers, saying, “The shift from purely theoretical learning to experiential, real-world training is transforming how our youth acquire and apply skills and offers a creative framework to bolster individuals’ preparedness for employment.”

Accelerated Skills Acquisition

Learnerships are often associated with entry-level qualifications, but Naidoo explains that their scope is expanding significantly with innovations in the training sector. Most learnerships now incorporate not only work readiness but mentorship programmes, substantially altering outcomes for unemployed individuals. He elaborates, “The hands-on experience and personalised coaching provided by learnerships are developing latent talent and the necessary skills to enter the workplace at a more rapid rate. It also aligns with the evolving needs of the workforce.

Another creative aspect of learnerships is the de-centralisation of training locations with venues closer to participants’ homes. Naidoo says that for EduPower, which has training venues nationwide, this localised approach removes geographical barriers and promotes a stronger sense of connection to the learning process.

 “Unlike traditional higher education, learnerships offer an accelerated pathway to skills acquisition, enabling individuals to contribute meaningfully to the economy in a matter of months,” he adds. “This agility meets the demand for accelerated skills development, essential in today’s job market.”

Sector Success

Naidoo further adds that while each sector is unique, innovation in learnerships has been more successful in certain sectors. “A gateway sector, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) has the potential to create large-scale, entry-level employment opportunities for young people with little experience or training,” he notes. “In this industry, it’s possible to gain valuable work skills quickly, making it easier to branch off and pursue a career in other sectors.”

He highlights business studies as another innovative learnership that significantly impacts employability. Developing entrepreneurship skills empowers individuals to create their own employment opportunities as well as for others.

Digital Skills

Technology and digital advancements also play a vital role in driving innovation in learnerships. Online delivery methods enhance accessibility, while digital skills training equips learners with essential capabilities.

“When they start their learnerships with us, many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are often using a computer for the first time, so the digital skills they learn during their learnership are invaluable,” Naidoo says.

Innovative Initiatives

Introducing all its learners to digital tools is just one of the innovations that EduPower has introduced. “Employment and employability are the foundation upon which EduPower has been built,” he continues. “The enhancements we have incorporated into our learnerships, ranging from working on live campaigns for major brands to acquiring digital skills, the provision of ongoing mentoring and facilitating work readiness, are all strategically designed to equip our learners with the skills and experience that employers are looking for.”

EduPower’s learners also have the opportunity to participate in the Academy’s pioneering Enterprise Development programme. This initiative equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills and resources to create a pathway to self-sufficiency, turning ideas into successful businesses.

The Skills Academy’s commitment to its learners extends beyond training to post-learnership employment opportunities for graduates. This reflects their dedication to nurturing talent and bridging the gap between education and employment.

The innovations that are taking place in learnerships signal a shift in education, emphasising practical skills, adaptability and agility. “With collaborative efforts from all stakeholders and with pioneering initiatives like those of EduPower, learnerships are becoming dynamic conduits that lead to sustainable employment and ultimately economic empowerment for our youth,” Naidoo concludes.

Rajan Naidoo, Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy