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A learnership is a form of work-based or ‘on-the-job’ training which results in an 
NQF-registered qualification. Learners on the programme will therefore spend some time learning and practising skills in the workplace, and some time learning knowledge or theory, usually in a class-room based situation through an institution or a provider. Learnerships are about occupations, and can be offered to both employed and unemployed learners. Learnerships are linked to the Skills Development Strategy, and are seen as an important way of addressing the skills shortages in South Africa. A learnership must be registered with the Department of Labour.

Because a learnership must lead to a qualification registered on the NQF, its design must meet the criteria for qualifications set out by SAQA. This will include requirements for the curriculum and its assessment. Most learnerships happen in a particular occupational sector (although some cut across different sectors), and will therefore fall under a particular SETA which will put in place its own requirements.

Delivery of a programme is based on a Learnership Agreement, which is a contract between a learner, an employer, and a training provider for a specified period. Without a host employer and a workplace context to provide the work exposure and practical training, there is no learnership. There is no obligation on the employer to employ the learner on termination of the agreement.

Learnerships are funded mainly from SETA grants to employers, and are linked to tax incentives for employers. Companies can recover a portion of their contribution to the Skills Development Levy through running learnerships. Learnerships generally include an allowance for learners.

Classroom training sessions take place throughout the year, usually 1 week in duration within a 7 week period. Learners are able to use the training gained in class in the performance of their work place responsibilities.

The method of assessment utilized is not only through writing exams but rather through practical abilities and on the job training. The assessing process is an accumulation of a number of assignments and tasks collectively known as a Portfolio of Evidence (POE).

Learnerships help ensure that a company’s’ workforce is skilled and has practical experience in the respective fields.