South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in the world and, despite a decrease in this rate in the first two quarters of 2023, it remains a concern particularly among the youth.
In addition, there is a dire need for upskilling in workplaces so that employees can prosper in the new age of mining. For the past seven years, minerals processing specialist Multotec has been helping to address these issues through its annual learnership programme.
GERARD PETER finds out more from JANINE JAMES, Organisational Development and Learning Manager.
Multotec introduced its learnership programme in 2016. Since then, the company has invested R31 million in the programme with 474 learners passing through its doors since its inception.
The primary objective is to equip participating learners with qualifications and foster their ongoing growth an development. Not only does it benefit Multotec from an employee-standpoint, but also benefits unemployed learners who are part of the programme.
James, who started at Multotec in 2011, explains that the programme is not just about meeting the requirements of its BEE scorecard, rather it underpins the company’s commitment to ensuring skills development, continued development, and job creation.
“We have always said that we are not only going to look at uplifting the skills of our own employees but also look at how we can help unemployed people grow themselves and give them access to learning. As such, we’ve always had a combination of learnerships for our own employees as well as for unemployed individuals.”
James adds that anyone can apply to be part of the programme. For those outside the company, the minimum requirement is Grade 12 while additional considerations for employees is their work performance and if a particular learnership is relevant to their current job role.
For the most part, the learnerships are focused on those that can provide possible employment opportunities at Multotec. “For example, because we work with polymer compounds, we conduct rubber and plastic learnerships. Others include production technology, planning in manufacturing facilities and information technology.
“We have also conducted programmes on supervisory and management skills, aimed specifically at our shop floor workers as well as business administration, which is beneficial for people with physical disabilities,” James states.
However, the programme goes beyond teaching workplace skills and there is also an emphasis on providing other skills for learners. “Among others, we teach workplace behaviour, how to do a budget and interviewing skills,” James adds.
This year, a total of 46 learners, including nine females, graduated after successfully completing programmes focused on production technology, supervisory, polymer compound manufacturing and stores and warehousing.
“The learnership is 70% practical and 30% theoretical, so 30% of the 12-month course is spent in the classroom onsite, where all four programmes are taught.
“The learners who engaged in the programme, and are current Multotec employees, have been able to implement what they have learnt, completing assessments, and assigned projects at their areas of work.
“During the course, the previously unemployed group of learners were placed in relevant areas of the business to gain practical experience. All learners are allocated a mentor to oversee their progress,” James states.
Out of the 46 learners who completed the course, 11 were previously unemployed and are now employed at Multotec following a successful recruitment and selection process.
Since 2016, the company has hired a total of 80 previously unemployed learners, including several individuals with disabilities. Some of these employees have since risen through the ranks at Multotec.
“Three learners who graduated from the programme in 2016 are still with us and during this time they have been all been promoted and developed in their careers. In addition, we have witnessed remarkable growth and development among our internal staff members who have completed the various programmes,” James states.
Multotec: Programme benefits industry and country
Through the learnership programme, Multotec has provided employment for several individuals. However, it must be remembered that not all graduates can be placed within the company, something which is explained to them when they start the programme.
However, all is not lost, James explains. “We keep a record of all the learners that we are not able to place. On occasion, we have been able to call these learners to do contract work with us or to apply for permanent vacancies.”
James points out that while Multotec has invested heavily in the learnership programme, there have also been financial benefits for the company. By claiming the learnership tax deduction, employee tax incentive and successfully applying for discretionary grants from the relevant SETAs, Multotec has also ensured a return on investment on money spent.
The annual learnership programme is testimony to Multotec’s commitment, not only to the mining sector but also to the country at large. There are more formal employment results in increased tax revenues, which ultimately benefit the economy.
“For us, this has been a real success. All organisations would benefit from offering comprehensive learnerships as we are creating a pool of skills for each other. Given the general lack of skills and high unemployment in South Africa, the entire industry benefits from a marketable skills pool,” James concludes.