In tough economic times there are many parents who cannot afford the high cost associated with tertiary education. Class fees are not the only thing to consider. The cost of books and accommodation could outstrip the cost of class fees in some cases. In addition, should a student quit his/her studies before completion, parents have lost a significant amount of investment into that student’s future.
What if there was a way that parents could get significant tax breaks for the years that their child studies towards a national qualification? Would any parent refuse a minimum tax break of R 80 000 per year if the parent could qualify for such a tax break?
Learnerships are the key to affordable tertiary education in which many people could benefit regardless of race, creed or gender.
There is a general misconception that learnerships and tax rebates associated with learnerships are the exclusive domain of B-BBEE regulations. The fact is that the National Skills Development Act provides all South Africans between the age of 18 and 35 the opportunity to obtain a first qualification through a learnership. In addition, SARS allows tax rebates on all valid learnership regardless the race or gender of the learnership beneficiary.
Business owners who pay Skills Development Levies and who can show that their company is tax compliant can claim two learnership rebates from SARS:
- A minimum of R 40 000 for every person (including the business owners’ child) when the learnership starts (as entry rebate)
- A minimum of R 40 000 for every person who completes a learnership and who acquired a national qualification through the learnership (as exit rebate)
Learnerships are not there simply to check a few boxes for the sake of getting a few more points on a B-BBEE scorecard. Such a practice is simply unethical and it does not benefit anyone.
If used correctly, learnership can be very powerful to deliver skills to the workplace and to recruit the best possible persons for a vacancy that a company may have.
Quality of Learnership Programs
There is a perception that qualifications obtained through a learnership are inferior because the qualification is awarded through SETA (Sector Education and Training Authorities). Some learnership programs are managed and assessed by external quality assurance partners who demand that students write an external professional exam. These types of learnerships have a required pass mark of 60% in all subjects compared to a required pass mark of 50% in other learnerships and in other academic programs.
Some qualifications, obtained through a learnership, are recognised by professional bodies. This means that the student, who obtained a qualification through such learnership, has a high competency level and that he/she could be trusted by industry. After all, having a qualification recognised by a professional body does open many doors for the youth.
Creating Work Through Learnerships
Parents and students always ask whether a qualification could guarantee someone employment. The fact is that no academic institution can state that their qualifications guarantee that a person will be employed after he/she qualified. Employing someone remains the prerogative of the employer. And, since employers do not realise that some qualifications, earned through learnerships, are recognised by professional bodies, they miss out on adding potential value to their workforce.
Learnership programs recognised by professional bodies do allow a person to start his/her own professional practice within the practice guidelines of the professional body. Thus, nothing stands in the way of someone to offer his/her professional services to small businesses in a community.
The idea that degrees are the only key that open the door to professionalism is an outdated myth.
Who would not want to earn an income with a lower qualification, that is recognised by a professional body, instead of having a degree and still have no way of generating an income?
Levels of Professional Designations
Students who have completed a learnership program recognised by a professional body could embark on a journey of lifelong learning. They could enroll into a program at a next level and receive a higher professional designation after they completed the higher-level program.
Being part of a professional body, a person can also earn valuable CPD (Continuous Professional Development) points. In addition, a person could become a member of another related professional body and expand his/her practice as soon as he/she meets the other professional body’s requirements.
Membership to some professional bodies also provide access to advanced degree programs for those who wish to eventually have a degree. However, the greatest demand for skills in South Africa is in professions where a suitable diploma, recognised by a professional body, is in demand. For a person who wants to have his/her own professional practice, early recognition by a professional body means early participation in economic growth.
The next question that parents and students ask is whether a qualification has international accreditation or recognition.
Some learnership programs are recognised by professional bodies that are represented in all of the Commonwealth countries. This means that a person could find it easier than someone else to have their qualification accepted by a chapter of the same professional body in another country.
Looking Towards the Future
Anyone who can join a professional body soon after he/she has completed a learnership program has a greater chance to economic independence than those who have a degree not recognised by a professional body.