Celebrate what People with Disabilities can do, not what they can’t

It’s National Disability Rights Awareness Month, the perfect time to spotlight the fact that of the three million South Africans who live with disabilities, only 1% have jobs. This alarming statistic clearly indicates that we need to do more to celebrate what people with disabilities can do, not what they can’t.

This is the view of Sean Sharp, Executive Head of Sales at EduPower Skills Academy. He believes that the best way to support the economic advancement of People with Disabilities (PWDs) in South Africa is by empowering them with skills.

“Learnership programmes provide PWDs with an accredited qualification and invaluable work experience in a specific occupation,” says Sean. “This significantly improves their employability allowing them to build careers and make a positive contribution at work and in society.”

Sean has first-hand experience of the impact that learnerships have for PWDs as 90% of the learners at EduPower are youngsters with disabilities. “Through our training, practical work experience, mentorship and our unique self-development programme, our PWD candidates acquire the skills that unlock career prospects they never dreamed would be possible.”

Sean, therefore, encourages PWDs to seek out learnership opportunities. To provide some guidance, he answers the common questions asked by EduPower’s candidates:

What is a Learnership?

A learnership is a 12-month structured learning programme that provides theoretical training as well as practical work experience that is directly related to an occupation or a specific field of work. 

Is a Learnership a qualification?

A learnership leads to a nationally recognised qualification that is registered in the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

What do I need to qualify for a Learnership?

  • You must be a South African citizen with a valid ID document
  • You need a matric certificate
  • You must be aged between 16 and 35
  • You must be unemployed
  • You must be fluent in English and have good communication skills
  • And finally, PWDs need a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner that details their specific disability.

What if I don’t have a Matric?

The academic requirements for learnerships vary but some organisations do offer learnerships for people with disabilities who do not have their matric qualification. If you are not sure, just ask about the minimum education requirement.

Do I have to pay for a Learnership?

When you are accepted into a learnership programme, you don’t have to pay any fees.

Do I get paid to do a Learnership?

There is a specified minimum learner allowance called a stipend that will be paid to unemployed learners while they are in the learnership. This is not a salary but it’s intended to cover expenses such as travel and meals.

As a double amputee, can I apply for a learnership?

Before applying, you need to be clear about your interests, your abilities and your chosen career path. It’s also important to consider which learnership opportunities will provide the best employment opportunities for you, taking into account the nature of your disability. For example, as a double amputee, you probably won’t be able to work in a factory but you could work in an office, so a Contact Centre learnership may be a consideration.

I am hard of hearing so what learnership can I do?

Candidates who are deaf can do anything – except hear. People with a sensory impairment have a lot to offer as their other senses are usually heightened so if you are deaf, you are probably highly observant. An office job would therefore be perfect and a great qualification may be an Information Technology learnership such as End User Computing Level 3.

While there are more questions that can be asked, Sean says the most important thing to remember is that if you don’t have the option of tertiary education, learnerships are a great opportunity for PWDs who want to learn skills and build a career. “Everyone is equal in our training and that’s why we no longer see any of our learners disabilities, only their abilities. Through our learnerships we develop the whole person so they have the skills and the confidence to go out and make a career for themselves,” he concludes.