Despite the scary connotations linked to The Apprentice, the reality game show hosted by Donald Trump, learning on the job is actually a tried and tested way of getting experience in your chosen field. You even earn a basic allowance to cover some of your expenses while you’re learning.
In South Africa, the government sponsors qualifying companies to run apprenticeship and learnership programmes. This benefits everyone involved:
- Young people get an opportunity to gain work experience as they learn, and potentially a full-time job when they’re qualified
- Companies get labour for the duration of the programme plus a source of potential new employees afterwards
So what’s the difference between an apprenticeship and a learnership?
Apprenticeships tend to be more trade-based and are available across a wide variety of sectors, for example, electricians, plumbers or machine operators. An apprentice is usually employed by the company for the duration of the programme, which can last 3 to 4 years. The experience gained is practically oriented and very specific to that industry, often resulting in a formal qualification for that trade if all the necessary tests are passed.
Learnerships are available mainly for skills that the government identifies as currently being scarce, which may vary from year to year. A programme usually lasts 12 – 18 months and is far more structured than an apprenticeship as it includes both academic and practical experience components. The successful learner earns credits on the National Learner Records Database that they can use towards a formal qualification.
How do I go about applying for one?
- Learnership and apprenticeship positions are advertised by the companies providing them so keep an eye out on job portals, the websites of companies you’d like to work for, and the newspaper (yes, they do still advertise that way).
- Contact the company to find out what the entrance requirements are – they’re different for each learnership.
The competition is stiff, so be sure to provide the company with as much evidence as you can when you apply. Include both academic grades as well as any extra-curricular activities that demonstrate qualities like leadership, determination or conscientiousness. Remember companies are looking for potential future employees so show them the best version of you!