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Internship, learnership or apprenticeship?

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When it comes to internships, learnerships, and apprenticeships, it’s quite easy to get the three mixed up or not understand the differences between them. But contrary to popular belief, there are quite a few differences that set these three programmes apart – including different structures, definitions, and expectations. 

Understanding an Apprenticeship

  • Apprenticeships allow unskilled individuals to train for a job in a specific sector. Apprenticeships are formal employment programs that can run anywhere from one year to six. These programs are usually very industry-specific and offer individuals that have a certain career goal in mind a way of receiving on-the-job training and qualifications.
  • Apprenticeships are usually focused on physical training and employers offering these programmes might have strict rules as to performance expectations that have to be met before an apprentice is allowed to qualify.
  • Generally, apprenticeships offer guaranteed employment solutions and if you have completed your apprenticeship, you might be required to work for the employer (who offered the course to you) for a set amount of time.

Understanding an Internship

  • Although graduates might have a degree in hand, they might not have the skills and industry-specific knowledge they’ll need to make it out there in their line of work and this is why internships help bridge the gap.
  • Internships are a way to help them gain experience in their industry of work. These programmes are specifically designed to help get students from a “theory mindset” to a hands-on approach in the workplace. They offer graduates the opportunity to put what they have learned to use outside of the university set-up.
  • Some internships do not offer compensation for the experience interns are offered in exchange for their efforts, but there are quite a lot of paid internship programmes as well. Internships usually range from between a few weeks to a year, depending on the organisation’s structure and the industry.

Understanding a Learnership

  • Learnership programmes are there to help students gain hands-on experience in their career of choice before graduating. These programmes are always related to specific occupations and fields of work.
  • Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) manage Learnership programmes in South Africa, and as such, they’re the guys in charge of creating new Learnership programmes and making them available across the various industries.
  • Note: Setas do not run the actual learnerships. These are done through companies and training providers.
  • If you enroll in a Learnership programme, you will receive practical and theoretical teaching in your field of work. Once you have completed your Learnership, your qualification will be registered with the National Qualifications Framework and you’ll have a recognized qualification that you can use to help you secure employment after you have graduated.

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