“I have been informed by a colleague that I may need to look at implementing learnerships to improve the BEE level of my company. How do learnerships work and can they really provide such a benefit?”
To answer your question, it is best to firstly start with what learnerships are. Learnerships are accredited qualifications where a learner completes theoretical and experiential training simultaneously. This distinguishes learnerships from other forms of training that may be just theoretical, or just practical, or where the theory and practical components are addressed separately such as with an internship. Usually there are three parties to a learnership, namely the learner, the employer and the training provider. These parties enter into a tripartite learnership agreement which forms the legal basis of the learnership agreement. If managed correctly a learnership can be a powerful educational tool as it combines theory and practice in one process.
Learnerships form an important component of the Skills Development priority element of a B-BBEE scorecard as learnerships have the distinct advantage of addressing multiple of the sub-elements of the Skills Development priority element. This means that the cost of a learnership can count towards several sub-elements with the result that you can achieve your desired points at a comparatively lower cost. In some instances, you can even score points under other elements such as Management Control and Enterprise and Supplier Development. Learnerships are a vital element of any Skills Development planning and quite necessary to achieving a substantial score for Skills Development.
There are also a number of indirect financial benefits to learnerships, such as the fact that you can recognise the salaries of your employees that you place on a learnership as training spent for BEE purposes, and also the tax benefits afforded to you by section 12H of the Income Tax Act. The larger the salary level of the employees placed on a learnership the greater the skills development recognition you can obtain. Section 12H of the Income Tax Act also allows you to deduct between R80,000 to R120,000 from your taxable income per learnership, essentially providing your company with a tax incentive to implement learnerships.
Off course, despite the BEE points and financial incentives, the main and lasting benefit of learnerships are the opportunities they present for substantial skills development of your employees. By investing in such formal training programmes, you can boost morale and also show that you wish to invest in your employees and in training and education.
Should you wish to consider the option of learnerships for your company, make sure to discuss this with your BEE consultant or skills development advisor.