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Do Learnerships and Apprenticeships Lead to Employment?

Learnerships and Apprenticeships have a lot to Offer

There may still be a global recession going on and work opportunities may remain scarce for many people, but there are some who are finding success and increased opportunity as a result of training. Learnerships and apprenticeships do not appear to be slow boats to nowhere. Evidence suggests that there have been significant benefits and that opportunities should be increased in order to attract more people.

The South African government has initiated many skills development opportunities in order to address unemployment and skills shortages in various sectors . The learnership and apprenticeship (‘ship) systems are showing gains even though we find ourselves in a challenged global economic context.

Kruss et al (2014) conducted a tracer study of graduates who had completed their ‘ship qualifications in order to determine if they had difficulty being absorbed by the labour market.

Was it hard for learners to find work?

And the answer is NO NO NO!

What they found was that 70% of apprenticeship and 86% of learnership participants who completed their qualification “experienced a smooth transition directly into stable employment”.

90% of those who completed a learnership reported that they were employed in permanent positions. Most were absorbed by the formal sector in large private firms or by the public sector. Learnerships combine theoretical and on-the-job practice, or experiential learning (gaining experience). More than half became employed at the same workplace as their experiential training.

Those who participated in apprenticeships and learnerships increased their chances of employment further than those with only one form of qualification.

The Learnership Benefit

Although the findings indicate that learnerships show a more significant impact than apprenticeships, both are responsible for increasing the employability of those Learners enrolled as 18.2 candidates (they were unemployed when they registered for the program).

This means that participants in learnerships and apprenticeships have substantially increased their chances of employment when compared to the rest of the unemployed in South Africa.

What about those who went to Further Education and Training Colleges?

The FET domain is one that requires robust invigoration and stimulation. Struggling to forge engagement with industry, their contribution to success in the field of occupational training remains debatable.

We find low formal employment rates (48% recorded in 2009) amongst those candidates graduating from FET colleges. (Gewer 2010 cited in Kruss et al). Perhaps they should strengthen and improve their pedagogy and create a campus based function similar to an employment agency.

2017 update – DHET has channeled more funds to the FET sector and has started limiting access to funds for business interventions. We’ll have to watch what happens with Business Union South Africa and their actions against this decision. 

Learnerships and Apprenticeships get Respect

During a coaching session with Live Event Technical Production students about to complete their learnership in Durban, I was asked ‘Are learnerships just for black people?’ Someone else added, ‘will people respect us for doing this?’

It led to an interesting discussion about population demographics, quotas and public perceptions. It was a conversation that made a deep impression upon me because I hadn’t considered the implications of these perceptions previously. It hadn’t occurred to me that learners could consider something strategically targeting a predominantly black population as second rate. This sentiment may be widespread and it’s very unfair and extremely incorrect.

The NQF is a policy framework, something fought for during the Struggle to end apartheid. A dumbed down intervention, not a chance!

Our skills development strategy is one which South Africans can be immensely proud of as it considers market needs, opportunity and potential. It’s a way of trying to address previous forms of economic marginalisation imposed upon people and to prevent similar forms of ostracisation from reoccurring.

Learnerships and Apprenticeships, whilst different to traditional programs, are not cheap training interventions only targeting the poor. These programs are specifically structured to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. If South Africa is to destroy poverty we must expose people to as many different types of education and training opportunities as possible in order to create a competitive growing economy.

Access to education and training cannot be achieved if there is a financial barrier, especially for those still suffering the severe impact of apartheid policies. If we price all training at the university rate, we would limit our economic growth and inhibit innovation and competition.

I believe it is essential that those who cannot compete to enter traditional tertiary opportunities, use learnerships and apprenticeships in order to improve their skills and engage with a formal labour network.

I say ‘engage with a formal network’ as my experience is that many of South Africa’s unemployed know mostly unemployed people. This means that for some, when they enter this formal environment for the first time, they have little or no realistic grasp of what being an employee (even if in training) entails.

These interventions are therefore vital, especially for the youth.

To opt out means you simply remain invisible to organised networks.

Occupational Training Value for the Youth and Unemployed

Learnerships and apprenticeships offer a variety of career pathways from media to design, from agriculture to construction, from business to banking. (And more!) Learnerships have shown such success amongst the unemployed (18.2) candidates, that there is now a trend to target employees in order to encourage career mobility which in turn fuels economic growth.

The benefits of this training is evidence of how much more can be achieved if we increase the number of learnerships and apprenticeships and accommodate a larger portion of youth.

Need to Increase ‘Ship Opportunities

  • Learnerships currently cater for a total enrollment ranging from between 44 000 (2010) to 55 000 (2005) learners.
  • Apprenticeships are less, catering for about 9 000 to 12 000 new learners per year.

The total annual registration for ‘ships are small when compared with the enrollment at public higher education institutions (approximately 840 000 for the same year).

These numbers emphasize how small the learnership and apprenticeship system is when compared to the massive demand from young adults, particularly new market entrants,  for training and certification to bridge the labour market barrier.

#KeepClimbing! ► ► ► 2min vid: How to Select a Learnership

Reference: G. Kruss et al: Learnerships and apprenticeships: Key mechanisms for skills development and capability building in South Africa. 2014



Comments (15)

  1. Iam 26 years old healthy and hardworking person who can work under pressure to any given task , I have Matric Certificate,driving Licence, I have N2 N3 with Tshwane North College, I have completed phase 1-3 for C02 welding boilermaker Section 28 with Tshwane Learnership ManagementAcademy in Pretoria iam waiting for Trade certificate and have a proof I also have experience in sub-merge welding from Nu- teck Wheels company in Pretoria but currently iam working at Markhams Clothing Shop for partime ,I will appreciate if you consider my request.

  2. Thankfully, there are a number of apprenticeship vacancies available around South Africa, all you have to do is pick an apprenticeship opportunity that suits your interests and that you are qualified to pursue.

  3. Tawana Mailula

    I am already in learnership training at polokwane municipality for fire and rescue. After this program will municipality give us permanent jobs

  4. Good day

    My name is Glen from Diversity Innovation Campus. We are offering a learnership in Generic Management NQF 4 for disabled people. If you are interested please send your CV and doctor’s letter to this E-mail:


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