What is the difference between a skills programme and a learnership?


Skills programmes tend to be short courses (1 day, a week, a month, etc.), consisting of either one or more unit standards, which when added together can eventually lead to a qualification. 

With a Skills programme, a learner can learn a specific amount of work, which consists of a group of unit standards, instead of having to complete an entire qualification as in the case of a Learnership. The exit points of skills programmes are in most instances prescribed by the needs of the learners.

A learner would be able to choose those unit standards of a learnership that make sense to him or her whilst gradually developing a qualification. 



A Learnership is a structured learning programme that has been formally registered with the department of labour and contains both practical (70%) and theoretical (30%) components.

Learnerships are of a specified nature, level and duration (usually one year) resulting in a nationally recognised qualification.  Learnerships are provided by employers (both large and small) in conjunction with the learner, the relevant SETA (sector education and training authority), and  or an accredited training provider.

Generally, learnerships are work based and enable successful, competent learners the opportunity to progress in a job. Each learner is required to enter into a standard contract, obtainable through a SETA, which regulates the learnership process.  

There are three main components:

  •  FUNDAMENTAL – which is about achieving the competence required to undertake the qualification and provides the foundation for further learning. In other words literacy, numeracy and life skills to an agreed level of competency.
  • CORE – which competencies better equip the learner for the occupation? This should also include issues such as health and safety, entrepreneurship and so forth. The majority of the qualification must be located here as it contextualises the qualification, and
  • ELECTIIVE – this ensures specific standards for specific occupations. In other words it affords the Learnership the opportunity to become highly specialised around a specific occupation.