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Most South Africans have heard about Learnership Programmes, but what exactly is a learnership? Who does it benefit, how does it work? Who qualifies for, and how does one get access to, a learnership?
South Africa has a very high unemployment rate, yet at the same time it has a shortage of qualified people to fill the many vacancies in various fields. In an effort to address both of these problems, the government looked for practical ways to educate the population and organise training systems for school leavers and unemployed adults. The introduction of learnerships has gone a long way towards achieving this.
What is a Learnership?
A learnership is a work-based learning programme. This means that classroom studies at a college or training centre are combined with practical on-the-job experience. We learn much better when we can practice what we have been taught in the classroom in a workplace environment.
By physically performing tasks that are learned in the classroom at the workplace, we can see what we have learned and what we did not understand. This allows us to ask the trainer to explain that part of the lesson again until we fully understand it.
Learnerships form part of a nationally recognised qualification that is directly linked to an occupation. This means that what you learn on a learnership is not just for the particular job that you can get once you have finished the learnership; it also forms part of a higher qualification that you can study further for through other learnerships or short courses.
Each learnership has a specific level of qualification. An artisan like a bricklayer or a beautician, for instance, is a Level 4 Qualification. This means that if you want to become an artisan you will have to complete 4 four separate learnerships (levels 1, 2, 3 & 4). There is no set time-frame in which you have to do these, as each level qualification remains in the system and will count towards the full qualification.
Who Benefits From Learnerships?
In short, everybody!
- You get access to free learning and better job opportunities
- Can earn while you learn
- Learnerships can help you to get into the workplace and/or get a formal qualification
- Gets skilled, experienced workers who will need less supervision
- Gets improved productivity
- Can identify and solve gaps in skills and training
- Educates and empowers employees, creating a happy workforce
- Gets access to far more skilled and professional workers
- Can develop employees to world-class standards
- Becomes more competitive in the international market
How Do Learnerships Work?
In the past, the education given in schools and other education facilities did not really have much in common with the working world. This meant that people entered the workplace with all of the knowledge but none of the practical experience on how to do the job.
In-house training given at companies did exactly the opposite; it taught the “how to” do certain tasks without the “why” they needed to be done. In order to do any job effectively, one needs to know both.
Learnerships teach both the “why” and the “how to” by creating a contract between the learner, the learning provider, and the organisation or business. All learnership contracts must be registered with the Sector Education Training Authority (SETA) for that specific industry, which guarantees that the learnership is of a high standard.
If accepted into a learnership you will have to sign two legal contracts; a Learnership Agreement and an Employment Contract. The Learnership Agreement tells you exactly what responsibilities you, the training provider and the employer have. The Employment Contract is only for the period of the learnership. Learnerships last between 12 -24 months.
If you are unemployed, you will receive an allowance while you are on a learnership which is meant to cover costs like travel and food. If you are already employed you will only receive your normal salary.
During the learnership you will spend a certain period of time in a classroom, either at the company or organization or at other premises, and the rest of the time actually working and learning on the job at the company. It is important that you take advantage of the opportunity offered you to develop your skills, gain experience and grow your potential. A learnership is the perfect way to show the trainers and the organization what you know, as it could lead to a permanent job with that company or organisation, so take your learnership seriously.
You will be expected to do certain written and practical tasks while on the learnership as part of your studies. Learnerships are outcomes-based, which means that you will be assessed (tested) on what you have learned through the various stages of the learnership, not only at the end of it.
You will get an official certificate that will state the qualification, and indicate the area in which you have developed skills during the learnership if you are considered to be competent at the end of it. This qualification is nationally recognized.
Completing a learnership is not a guarantee of employment, but many learners do get employed by companies or organisations where they did their learnerships. Even if that company does not employ you, you stand a much better chance of getting employed with a learnership qualification than without one.
Who Qualifies for a Learnership?
Learnerships are designed for all levels and as such is open to anyone between the ages of 16 and 60. This includes the unemployed and the employed, the able-bodied and the disabled.
How Does One Get Access to a Learnership?
Decide in which line you want to study and either speak to your employer or contact your nearest Labour Centre or Provincial Office of the Department of Labour to find out whether there are any learnerships that you can apply for.
Some learnerships have certain conditions, such as only accepting learners who have a Grade 12, speak more than 1 language, or have computer skills, for instance. Other learnerships do not have any requirements.
Which Learnerships Are Available?
There are hundreds of learnerships available across different industries. Contact the Department of Labour, a labour office, or go to www.labour.gov.za and look under “Registered Learnerships by SETAs” to find one that you are interested in.