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All you need to know about learnership in South Africa

Learnerships – A guide for unemployed people

A learnership is a structured learning process for gaining theoretical knowledge and practical skills in the workplace leading to a qualification registered on the NQF


1.What is a learnership?

A learnership is a work-based learning programme that leads to a nationally recognised qualification that is directly related to an occupation,for example an accountant, construction worker, health care worker, IT technician or motor mechanic. Learnerships combine a structured learning component with practical work experience that is acquired while being employed in a company, government department or small business.

Learners in learnerships have to attend classes at a college or training centre to complete the classroom-based learning, and they also have to complete on-the-job training in a workplace. This means that unemployed people can only participate in a learnership if there is an employer that is prepared to provide the required work experience.


2. Which unemployed people can apply to do a learnership?

Learnerships are available for young people who are just leaving school, college or other training institutions after completing some formal education, and for people who have been unemployed for some time. People entering a learnership must be at least 16 years old and younger than 35 years.

The Department of Labour has set the following targets for learners entering learnerships: 85% should be Black, 54% should be women and 4% should be people with disabilities.

3. How much will it cost?

People entering a learnership do not have to pay anything for the programme.

4. Will you be paid anything during the learnership?

All unemployed people selected for a learnership programme will be paid a learner allowance by the employer. The allowance is not a salary, but is intended to cover the cost of expenses like travel and meals you will have to pay for because you are in the learnership.

5. How much will a learner earn?

Learner’s allowance:

i) An employer must pay a learner an allowance calculated in terms ofclause 3 of Sectoral Determination No. 5: Learnerships

ii) A learner’s allowance must be calculated as a percentage of thequalified wage in accordance with column 3 in Table A

iii) No learner may be paid less than the applicable allowance specifiedin Table A.

The precise amount of the learner allowance depends on the type of learnership and the level of the qualification. The Minister of Labour has specified the minimum amount that employers must pay as allowance to unemployed learners in learnerships. The allowances and conditions are agreed with each learner before the commencement of the learnership. The learner allowances set by the Minister are indicated in the table below.

The NQF level in the table indicates the level of the qualification that successful learners will get at the end of the learnership. For example, a Grade 12 certificate is on NQF level4 and a degree, such as a Bachelor’s Degree at a university, is on level 6. The number of credits gives an indication of the duration of the programme. Most of the learnerships are about 120 credits, and if you successfully complete such a learnership you will be awarded 120 credits on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

6. Which learnerships are available?

Learnerships are registered with the Department of Labour. You could contact your nearest labour centre or provincial office of the Department of Labour for more information about what learnerships are available. A list of all the registered learnerships is also available on the Department of Labour’s website at Go to “useful documents” and then go to“Registered learnerships by SETAs”.

There are some learnerships that do not require learners to meet any entry requirements, but others require learners to have a grade 12 certificate. Some learnerships have entry requirements that relate directly to the field of study. For example, you will not be able to enter a learnership in the field of financial management if you have not completed some basic training in finances.

7. How can unemployed people apply for a learnership?

One of the conditions of a learnership is that unemployed people must be employed by an employer for the duration of the learnership. This means that unemployed people can only enter into a learnership if there is an employer that is willing and able to take unemployed people into a learnership programme. Unemployed people can apply to enter a learnership if there is an employer that is calling for applications for unemployed people. Employers sometimes advertise in newspapers for unemployed learners, or they communicate the message in the city, town or community in which their premises are situated.

If you are an unemployed person who is interested in entering a learnership you could contact the nearest labour centre or provincial office of the Department of Labour. Before approaching any of these bodies to tell them about your interest in entering a learnership you should think about the area in which you would like to do the learnership.

For example, you may have a particular interest in working in the catering field, or you may wish to study further in marketing. Maybe you are very good with fixing computers and would like to study further to get a qualification in that field. This will assist you to find a learnership that matches your interest, talents or career goals.

8. How long does it take to complete a learnership?

It usually takes a year to complete a learnership, although there are some learnerships that are completed over two or more years. It is possible for learners to complete a learnership in a shorter time through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This is a process through which learners will be able to get formal recognition for parts of the programme that they have already completed through previous learning or work-based experience.

9. What will I get at the end of the learnership?


During the learnership you will have to complete assignments, for example written tests, projects, practical tasks and demonstrations. You will be formally assessed in the classroom and in the workplace. That means that you will be tested in some way.

If you successfully complete all these assignments, you will be awarded a qualification that is recognised throughout the country.You will be given an official certificate that will state the qualification, which will indicate the area in which you have developed skills during the learnership.

10. What is required from learners in a learnership?

If you are accepted for a learnership, you will have to sign two legal documents: the first is a Learnership Agreement and the second is an Employment Contract. The Learnership Agreement is signed by yourself, the organisation that will be employing you for the duration of the learnership (the employer), and the training provider (such as a college) that will be offering the classroom-based training of the learnership.

The Learnership Agreement clearly spells out the rights and responsibilities of these three parties who sign the document. The second document is the employment contract that you will have to sign with the employer. This contract is only valid for the time period of the learnership.

11. Will I get a job after completing the learnership?

If you are unemployed when the learnership begins, there is no guarantee of a job at the end. The employer who provides you with training does not have to offer you a job. But with a qualification and work experience you will be in a better position to get a job than before.

You might also want to think about studying further or starting up a business of your own. After completing a learnership the learner will be in a better position to market him or herself for employment and this will also enhance the learner’s chances of generating income by self-employment, opening small businesses or establishing cooperatives with the skills that they would have acquired. Learners could use the labour centres, private employment agencies ororganisations like the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, to explore other opportunities.

12. Who are involved in a learnership and what are their roles?

The employer makes the final decision about taking an unemployed learner(s) into a learnership in his/her employment and then signs the employment contract with the learner and provides the work experience part of the learnership. The employer also signs the same Learnership Agreement, which specifies the learner allowance to be paid to the Learner. The training provider provides the more theoretical classroom-based training of the learnership, and signs the same Learnership Agreement as the other two parties.

A Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) organises and facilitates the funding of learnerships in a specific area of the economy (for example transport, or tourism or hospitality), and ensures the quality of thelearnership. The Department of Labour, through its Employment Services,provides assistance with the recruitment, selection and referral of unemployed people to employers looking for learners.

13. What are learner’s rights?

The rights of learners in a learnership are described in Sectoral Determination No. 5 on Learnerships, which forms part of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997. The Sectoral Determination is an official document that describes the conditions of employment of unemployed learners.

It covers issues such as hours of work, annual leave, sick leave, the contract of employment that must be signed by the learner and the employer, as well as the certificate of service that the employer has to provide to the learner at the end of the learnership. Employers have to adhere to the requirements stipulated in the Sectoral Determination, and they have to explain the conditions in it to learners. You can get a copy of the Sectoral Determination on the Department of Labour’s website, Search under topics for “L” and go to“Learnerships”, then scroll down to “Sectoral Determination”.

14. Can a learnership be terminated?

  Yes, a learnership can be terminated under certain conditions. An employer may only terminate the contract of employment of a learner if:

  The period of duration specified in the learnership agreement has expired

   The learner successfully completes the learnership

  The employer and learner have agreed in writing to terminate the learnership agreement, or if there is no such agreement, the SETA which registered the agreement approves its termination

  The learner is fairly dismissed for a reason related to the learner’s conduct or capacity as an employee

15. Which legislation does learners have to comply with?

15.1. Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993

Clauses 21 and 22 do not apply to an inability to work caused by an accident or occupational disease as defined in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993, or the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act, 1973, except in respect of any period during which no compensation is payable in terms of those Acts.

15.2. Labour Relations Act, 1995

Disputes about Learnership Sectoral Determination 5. A party dispute in terms of this determination may refer the dispute to the CCMA by submitting a completed Form 7.11 published in terms of the Labour Relations Act, 1995.

16. How do I apply for a learnership if I am unemployed?

Register with the Department of Labour as a work-seeker. Always keep your contact details up to date.The labour centre will then contact you if you meet the minimum criteria for the learnership of a specific employer. If you meet the criteria you may be called in for a briefing session and possible assessment prior to final selection.