NBI offering guidance for workplace-based learning for youth

16th June 2017 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Business organisation the National Business Initiative (NBI) is using its construction industry youth internship project to determine best practice in establishing effective youth training initiatives in other industries.

In June, the organisation launched the NBI Guidelines for Work Integrated Learning (WIL), which were developed from a study on WIL and are intended to guide employers in their implementation of workplace-based learning for youth.

Long-term reciprocal relationships with training authorities and tertiary institutions are also important to ensure that skills development is suited to industry needs, says NBI head of social sustainability Makano Morojele.

While establishing youth training as part of business practice in South Africa is important to make youths work-ready and employable, if the specific demands for skills and work experience from the different industries are not understood and met, the initiatives might not produce employable youths for those industries, she explains.

The starting point is to ensure that the employers on the demand side and the suppliers on the education and training side establish a relationship and, once in place, develop a training programme that is responsive to industry.

“The long-term sustainability of youth internship programmes requires that the programmes respond rapidly to changing skills demands in industry,” she says.

Formal relationships require significant administration and coordination, and the complexity of the construction industry and related industries illustrates that the differences and consequent difficulties in managing training projects must not be underestimated.

“Notwithstanding managing routine challenges, such as training quality across separate and isolated work sites, health and safety and technical work requirements, for example, are difficult to ensure while maintaining effective training.”

The project has, however, provided significant lessons that the NBI disseminates to business to replicate the internship model in other industries through the WIL guidelines, confirms Morojele.

Further, it is as important to have a flexible and supportive legislative framework that is responsive to the specific needs of different industries, she says.

For example, during the construction industry internship project, companies reported challenges when they moved between sites, as companies cannot always take interns with them to new sites, owing to localisation requirements, but also cannot provide effective training for local youths in the short period that they work on some sites, explains Morojele.

“While the regulations have good intentions, they must be flexible to enable effective, manageable youth training in different industries,” she emphasises.

Similarly, some of the sector education and training authorities (Setas) in various industries are monolithic, inflexible and unresponsive to industry needs. Therefore, more responsive Setas and training support designed for specific industries and industry subsectors will help to overcome some of the difficulties in youth internship projects. Good relationships between industry and trainers will help in this regard as well, Morojele concludes.