A Quick Guide to Learnerships

Submitted by Suzaan Beneke on Fri, 12/18/2020 - 13:46

You did it! You finished school and not even a global pandemic could stop you.

Now you have a decision to make - will you be going to college to further your studies or are you diving head-first into the job market? That's a difficult question to answer, we know.

Luckily there's a third option - learnership programmes.

Let's have a closer look at how these work.

According to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), a learnership is a learning programme registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

"It consists of a structured learning component, a practical work experience component of a specified nature and duration, and which leads to a qualification registered on the National Qualifications Framework that is related to an occupation. It is based on an agreement entered into between the learner, the institution and the employer." 

There are three parties involved in a learnership: The student, the employer offering the practical training and the college offering the theoretical element of the learnership.

Instead of going to college and looking for a job afterwards,  a learnership lets you attend classes at a college or other training institution to complete the classroom-based learning while also working at a registered company, government department or small business to help you gain work experience. 

What types of learnerships are available?

Learnerships are offered in a wide range of occupations such as agriculture, banking, construction, engineering, finance, food manufacturing, health services, insurance, IT technology, manufacturing, security, tourism, and wholesale & retail.

Do you have to be employed to apply for a learnership?

This is possible but unemployed people can only enter into a learnership if an employer is willing and able to take unemployed people into their programme. 

The learner is typically an existing employee at the company or, in rare cases, they can be unemployed but the process is a bit more complicated. Unemployed people can apply to enter a learnership if there is an employer that is calling for applications for unemployed people.

According to merSETA, employed applicants will continue with their current employment contract and will only need to sign a learnership agreement.

On the other hand, previously unemployed people will need to sign two contracts: the learnership agreement and an employment contract. There are also differences in the grants and tax breaks.

What you’ll need in order to apply

Different learnerships have different entry requirements. We recommend that you contact the provider of the learnership for full details on the specific requirements for the learnership of your choice.

In general, meaning in the case of most learnerships, there are some basic requirements.

Learnerships are available for applicants between the ages of 16 and 35 who have completed school (Grade 12), college or training at another institution.

Note: Unemployed South Africans can only apply for a learnership if a company is available to provide the required work experience.

Benefits of learnership positions

  • You'll likely have better employment opportunities once you’ve completed the course
  • Learnerships improve on-the-job performance, so you’ll gain skills that are more relevant to the job.
  • You obtain a nationally recognised qualification that is relevant to the sector
  • You’ll earn an allowance for the duration of the learnership. There is a specified minimum learner allowance that must be paid to unemployed learners during their training - this isn’t a salary but it is meant to cover travel and meal expenses.
  • Companies can also benefit, as learnerships can help to develop a well-trained and committed workforce.
  • Employers have a chance to get to know and assess students for permanent employment, and
  • Both the student and the business benefits in the form of tax deductions and SETA grants. 

Moreover, when looking at the bigger picture, learnership programmes aim to address the following challenges:

  • Growing unemployment rates
  • Unequal access to education and training, and employment opportunities;
  • The effects of race, gender and geographical location on education; and
  • The skills shortages that South Africa faces.

Are learnerships accredited?

Don’t think that exams and assignments are a thing of the past.  In order to graduate, you’ll still need to complete the theoretical component of your studies which include practical assignments, homework and tests that will be formally assessed.

You will also need to complete some practical training also known as workplace training that requires hands-on, practical learning under the supervision of a mentor.

Together they form an integrated and comprehensive learning programme.

Once completed successfully, you’ll be awarded a nationally recognised NQF-registered qualification and receive your certificate stating the qualification and your focus area.

The number of credits you’ll need to graduate will depend on the type of learnership you apply to, so make sure that you understand the minimum requirements before applying.

In a nutshell –

With SA’s unemployment rate sitting at 30.1%, opting for a learnership after high school can be seen as a 'shortcut' on your career path to help you get to your dream job faster.

It gives you the opportunity to work while you study, earning valuable experience and building a reputation in the industry along the way.