Learnership Meaning: Why learnerships are important?

This post provides a basic yet in-depth understanding of what a learnership is and why it is important.

It explains:

  • the difference between learnerships and internships
  • who qualifies for learnership
  • the advantages and disadvantages of learnerships
  • learnership rules
  • and lots more about learnerships

Before explaining what learnerships and internships mean and why they are important, it’s necessary to know that both learnerships and internships provide a structured platform for learning and gaining some exposure in the career field you choose to pursue.

What do Learnerships And Internships Mean and why they are important? What is the difference between Learnership and Internship?

What does an Internship mean?

  • An internship is a structured program that provides you with an exposure and working experience that aligns with your particular field of study.
  • The essence of an internship is to make you experience what a particular role feels like in a full-time working environment. An internship also facilitates your personal and career development.
  • One thing to note is that internships always have a specific timeframe allocated to them by an organization – one month, three months, six months, or even a year. An internship has an option for a part-time or full-time program. Also, an internship may be paid or unpaid.
  • Another thing to note about an internship is that it is taken up majorly by students and graduates in expectation to build more skills and acquire increased experience.


What does a Learnership mean?

  • Learnerships slightly differ from internships although both are used by organizations to develop individual skills and introduce real-life work experience.
  • A learnership is a more structured training program with both theoretical and practical elements that enables you to obtain the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) registered qualification without having received formal education from a tertiary institution.
  • In a nutshell, learnerships can be described as a well-structured learning program that enables participants to adequately acquire both practical skills and theoretical knowledge that earn them an NQF-registered qualification.  At the end of the learnership program, learners would receive a certificate that bears their qualification and their area of skill development.

Please note that to acquire an artisan equivalent qualification, which equals to NQF Level 4, a learner must have undergone and completed 4 different learnership programs (NQF Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4).

  • Although learnerships also have a specific timeframe and different durations, the average timeframe is about 18 months.
  • From the explanations above, it can be seen that learnerships enable you to gain the same theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and real-life working exposure achievable through internship but without undergoing formal education or having the qualification of a graduate.
  • Hence, the learnership program targets individuals and students who have GCSE as their highest educational qualification and helps them to acquire a national qualification while they work simultaneously.
  • While an internship can be said to be time-based, learnership can be said to be work-based, yet most learners are paid.

Who Qualifies For a Learnership?

Anybody between the ages of 16 and 35, and who has completed school, college or any training institutions qualifies for the learnership programs.

More so, unemployed South Africans are also qualified for learnership as long as there is an employer ready to provide them with the necessary work experience. In this case, the learner is legally bound by the contract between both parties (the learner and the employer). It is also required of the learner to be fully employed by the employer for only the specified period of the learnership program. However, at the expiration of the learnership program, the employer may decide to continue with the employment or not.

Learnership Rules

Note: Learnerships are managed by the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA). There are 21 of these authorities and they all manage and oversee the registration of learnerships to meet the needs of skills development across the sectors.

These bodies also set out the basic requirements for the applicable learnership program. So, it is important to always find out from the relevant SETA about your chosen career path.

Also, since each learnership program ends in an NQF-registered qualification, a Learnership is designed to meet the necessary criteria for the NQF qualification laid out by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA).

Even when you qualify for the learnership program, there are some learnership rules you need to observe and obey. Here are some of the basic rules:

  • After identifying the learnership program that suits and supports your career path, you must find out the basic and entry requirements for that specific learnership program.
  • Note that different learnership programs have different entry requirements. Therefore, you’re required to contact the prospective employer or training provider of the learnership program for full information or the specific requirements for your chosen learnership program.
  • You cannot register for more than one learnership program at a time with a SETA as each learner’s details and results are also stored on the National Learner Records Database for assessment and there must not be a duplicate record.
  • The minimum entry requirements for most learnership programs are computer literacy and the National Senior Certificate (NSC) or National Certificate (vocational). However, prospective learners may expect more specific skills requirements or subject requirements.

4 Advantages of Learnership

Learnership programs hold benefits for both the employer and the learner. Here are some of the advantages of learnership to both the learners and the employers:

4 Advantages of Learnership to Employers

  • Learnership involves on-the-job training. Hence, the employer will have a larger workforce to drive the productivity of the organization.
  • The employer will enjoy financial benefits. Foremost, SETA offer cash grants for learnership programs. Secondly, the government offers tax deduction and other incentives to employers for joining the learnership programs.
  • Employers/organizations earn points on the BBBEE scorecard for providing learnership training.
  • Learnership programs create skilled employees, who will, in turn, add value to the organization or support organizational growth and development.

Other benefits of the learnership training include:

  • National recognition. Learnership creates an avenue for further learning and because it’s registered on the NQF, it’s also recognized nation-wide.

4 Advantages of Learnership to Learners

  • Learners will still earn an income while undergoing learnership. This will not only motivate them but also enhance their career prospects.
  • Learners are given the opportunity for further learning and to obtain a national-recognized qualification that can be used across organizations.
  • Learnership creates an avenue for personal development and self-esteem improvement. This is especially true when a learner obtains a good qualification.
  • Learners don’t have to acquire formal education from a tertiary institution before participating in learnership.

4 Disadvantages of Learnership

Despite the interesting advantages of learnerships, they also have their disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages of learnerships include:

  • Learners are seen more as an assistant. Since learners are not yet skilled but only receiving on-the-job training, they are treated more like assistants than prospective employees. This may be considered as inequality.
  • Learners earn low salaries. Although learners earn an income during the learnership, this is a mere incentive and not a competitive payment that attracts talented individuals. Sometimes, learners may find themselves in a bad financial situation.
  • Learners get labeled. As long as they are undergoing the learnership program, they are given the title “learners.” This action may be patronizing and makes learners forfeit the necessary respect.
  • Learners may be made to do grunt works. Hence, they are made to perform menial or mindless tasks.


Learnership Obligations

Here are some learnership obligations required of both employers and learners:

An employer:

  • Must be registered and accredited as a workplace training provider with the appropriate Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) in charge of the learnership.
  • Must select and recruit learners for the learnership program.
  • Must provide all the necessary skills, training, mentorship, supervision, and work experience needed by the learners for the particular learnership program.
  • Must allow the learner to attend appropriate and useful training.
  • Must ensure that the learner is easily assessable by any registered learnership evaluator.

A learner:

  • Must register with an organization/training provider for the learnership program.
  • Must be ready, willing, and available to participate in all the learning processes, learning sessions, and real-life work exposures (theoretical or practical) required by the learnership program.
  • Must participate in all induction programs
  • Must work diligently for the employer/organization as part of the learning process
  • Must comply with all the policies and procedures set up by the employer/organization/training provider.
  • Complete any assessment tool – logbooks, timesheets, etc. – provided by the employer/training provider.

Also, learners are required to sign two legal documents: the Learnership Agreement and the Employment Contract.

The learnership agreement is a document that contains the rights and responsibilities of the learner, the employer, and the training provider and must be signed by these three parties.

The employment contract is an agreement between the employer and the learner and must be signed with the employer. The employment contract is valid only for the timeframe of the learnership program.

While undergoing the learnership program, learners are required to complete learnership test questions, tasks, assignments, practical tests, and projects. All these tests, tasks, and projects will be formally evaluated both in the workplace and classroom.

How Much Does the Learnership Program Cost?

The following costs may be incurred during the learnership program where applicable:

  • Tuition costs
  • Professional registration fees
  • Learner allowances
  • Assessment costs

However, note that the program is generally funded by the relevant SETA. More so, the cost of a learnership program varies according to MERSETAs and also depends on the type of qualification to be acquired and levels of qualifications in view. Therefore, it is very important to always contact the relevant SETA for more and latest information.

Click the links below to view the learnerships BOTi offers:






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