Home After School The 101 of Apprenticeships and Learnerships

The 101 of Apprenticeships and Learnerships

by Robyn Tichauer

Are you in a bit of a tricky situation and unsure of what to do with your future? Robyn lays out apprenticeships and learnerships which you may never have considered before. A new take on finding a career

You’d think with the vast amount of information available to us on the internet, we’d be more informed about options considering our futures. Unfortunately, that isn’t so. The internet is more a source of entertainment to many of us. Luckily, the information is there and this article is here to inform you of some different options you may never have considered before.

Ever heard of a learnership or apprenticeship? I had only briefly heard of them while in school. No one ever elaborated on them so it never piqued my interest and I never did more research into it. Luckily, I have now seen the light and did some in-depth research to help you out. So that you don’t overlook any options which might be the beginning of something amazing for your future.

Welcome to a whole new world

Before you completely disregard this information because you think it sounds like you need amazing marks and some sort of skill or talent – carry on reading.

The option of learnerships and apprenticeships are great, especially if you find yourself in one of the following situations:

  • Matriculated, but marks weren’t so great.
  • Circumstances lead to you not being able to matriculate.
  • You really aren’t sure what to do after school.
  • You don’t have funds to study.
  • Theoretical studying really isn’t for you. You need to be a bit more hands-on.

Apprenticeships, learnerships, internships, bursaries – what are they?  

If you’re anything like me, you were completely uninformed as to what these are. Okay, pretty much everyone knows what a bursary is. But an apprenticeship, learnership or internship? To me, they were exactly the same things and it was only for graduates. I never even considered them post-matric. As we can see above, my assumptions were way off course.

I chatted to Dream Worker founder, Rhoda Farrant, about the differences between these options. Hopefully you’re just as pleasantly surprised as I was and find some hope for your future here.

1. Bursaries

  • Company or organisations pay for your years of studying.
  • In return you need to work for them for the equivalent amount of years.

I.e. You studied for 3 years with a Sanlam bursary, you now need to work for them for 3 years after graduation to pay it back. These are generally for degrees only.


Each bursary will have different requirements – take a look at our funding directory to find some bursaries that are applicable to you and look at the requirements.

Tip to Remember: Apply to as many bursaries as possible!

See yourself as a gardener. The more seeds you plant, the more fruits and veggies will grow. In other words, the more bursaries you apply for, the more chance you have at being offered bursaries. 

2. Learnerships

  • Includes on-the-job training under the supervision of a skilled professional.


The requirements for a learnership will vary depending on the organisation offering it. The basic requirement is a matric certificate. Some may require proof of a skill, like welding, while others will teach you all of the skills you need during the learnership.

The government makes use of SA Learnerships to advertise government learnerships and those affiliated to them.

3. Apprenticeships

  • Form of on-the-job training. This means that you’re learning the practical aspects of a job under the supervisions of a skilled professional while learning the theory in a classroom environment.
  • An apprenticeship is generally over a course of 3-4 years and you get paid while doing it.

This generally doesn’t lead to a NQF qualification, but the experience and skill acquired as well as a reference letter from the company, will ensure job opportunities in the future.

4. Internships

As Rhoda informed me, you get two types of internships. Both forms can be paid or unpaid.

  1. Undergraduate Internship

This is for students who are enrolled at a university and require experience at a company during their holidays.

  1. Graduate Internship

This is for students who have graduated.

Which is Best For Me?

So now that you know the differences between the three, we’re going to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of apprenticeships and learnerships, since you don’t need to attend university to acquire either of them.



  • Theoretical knowledge while gaining practical experience
  • Exposure to the reality of the job
  • Good job opportunities upon completion
  • Some apprenticeship programmes can take less time than studying
  • You can continue your studies after the completion of the apprenticeships
  • Earn a salary while working
  • Theoretical knowledge while gaining practical experience
  • Leads to a registered qualification by the NQF
  • Incentives and grants are offered to students
  • Leads to you being a competent, independent employee with the necessary problem-solving skills
  • Company provides the means to stay motivated
  • Learnerships are common in SA
  • Don’t need to pay for studies
  • Career opportunities can be restricted as career is specialized
  • Will earn less in the long term
  • Due to work load it will be difficult to focus on personal avenues during apprenticeship
  • Some companies may require applicants to have a degree
  • Specialised in one field only and that may restrict job opportunities.

One of the main differences between the two is that at the end of a learnership you have a NQF accredited qualification. This can be advantageous, especially if you want to move overseas.

However, both are great options. Whether you didn’t perform well in school or you don’t know what you want to do with your future. These routes will give you knowledge and experience in a specific field. You can use that to further your career by going the academic route (studying towards a degree) or to decide whether you could continue doing it in your future.

Where do I find learnerships and apprenticeships? 

The good news is that companies all over South Africa offer both learnerships and apprenticeships. The aim of these are to shorten the gap in skill shortages in South Africa, to lower the rates of employment, offer more educational options for post-matriculants and to equal the opportunities between gender and race.

Here are some websites to check out with listings of either:

  • Take a look at the government’s youth service guide. They provide a comprehensive breakdown of post-matric options funded by the government.

To find more learnerships, Rhoda recommends doing a quick web search. You will find learnerships and apprenticeships directly from companies or on portals, either way, it will be well explained as to how you should apply.

To apply or not to apply…

What you decide to do with your future is ultimately up to you. It will never hurt to apply and gather all of your options. It helps to have more than one pathway, since your mind might change or Plan A might fall through. That being said, a learnership or apprenticeship doesn’t need to be Plan B or C. It can be Plan A. Especially if you know what you want to do with your future. Explore the different learnerships and apprenticeships to find one that interests you.

I personally think learnerships are an excellent way for the youth and really any person to gain good work experience and learning from particular sectors, as the learning will help steer them towards whether this is an area they would like to continue working in. It also builds up their confidence and self-esteem.”                                                                                                                                Rhoda Farrant

EduConnect 2Cents

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not pursuing a degree straight out of school, or ever. Some people simply aren’t academics. There are many reasons why a person might not be able to obtain a degree. That’s okay. Learnerships and apprenticeships are great alternatives and shouldn’t be overlooked. It might just be your key to the future you’ve been dreaming about.

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