Internships vs learnerships - what are they?

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So you’re in matric and looking at all your options once you’re done with school. Some terms that always come up are internships and learnerships. What are these and what’s the best option for you?


What are they?

Typically, learnerships are an agreement between the learner, an employer and a training provider to give hands-on training and work experience to suitable candidates. The learner enters a fixed-term contract with the company while the training provider gives them the theoretical knowledge of the field they’re in. At the end of the contract, the learner earns themselves a qualification that’s accredited by the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

How do they work?

Learnerships are usually for vocational fields — which are career paths that require workers to acquire very specific skills in order to perform a certain function like boiler-making, ceiling design and installation, upholstery etc. The learnership would then form part of your National Diploma if you’re doing an N4, N5 or N6 qualification. The company involved would cover your school fees and give you a monthly stipend to help you with basic travel and meal expenses. You get regular assignments and assessments for both theory and practical work and if you pass them all, then you’ve earned your qualification.The learnership ends when your qualification does, which means that if your theoretical qualification takes 2 years, then your employment contract would also be for 2 years.

Who qualifies?

Anyone who applies for a learnership must be between the ages of 16 and 35. You don’t need to have a matric certificate, but you should’ve completed up to the end of Grade 9 in formal education.


What are they?

Internships are opportunities for people who have completed or are still working towards a degree or diploma to gain practical work experience. They allow you to work within your field of study and get some on-the-job insights for a specific period of time.

How do they work?

Internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on the industry and the employer. Unpaid internships will usually take place over a shorter period of time, such as summer holidays and semester breaks. There are certain things that your formal tertiary training doesn’t teach you, and you’d only learn once you’re in the workplace — so it might be a good idea to look into internships if you’re in your final year of study.

Who qualifies?

Anyone who has completed matric, is working towards earning a degree or diploma qualification (or has already completed one) and is looking to get some related work experience. Companies often publish announcements regarding internships when they’re available and there’s a good chance that you’ll get offered a permanent position with a company once you’ve completed an internship with them.

It’s always a good idea to keep yourself clued up about all the different avenues available to you after school. If you’re looking into internships and learnerships, check out our opportunities section for a couple that may be available to you.

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