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Life Long Learning and the World of Work

What is in this guide?

This guide provides government policy on life long learning and the world of work. It has the following sections:

  1. Unemployment and lack of skills in the workplace
  2. Questions faced by our society and government's response
  3. Three types of education and training

1) A Qualification
2) A Skills Programme
3) A Learnership

  1. Standardisation of all qualifications by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
  2. How the Skills Development Grant works
  3. Problem Areas

  1. Unemployment and lack of skills in the workplace

These days we hear a lot about students who can't afford to go to colleges and universities after school. We also hear about unemployment amongst young people who have matric and even those with degrees and technical qualifications. At the same time, employers can't find the skilled workers they need to build their businesses. All these issues raise questions about the relationship between learning and the world of work.

  1. Questions faced by our society and government's response

    • Are learners better prepared to get jobs if they do an academic matric or go to a technical high school?
    • Can a learner who has gone to a technical high school later go to university or does he or she have to go to a Technical College?
    • If a learner goes to a private college such as Damelin or Oxford College how does he or she know if the qualification they get will be recognised by employers?
    • Are there other ways to get qualifications at work other than through a technical college or a University?
    • How do workers get formal recognition for things they have learned to do on the job?
    • How do employers influence the type of education young people are getting so that they can find the type of skilled workers they need.

To answer some of these questions government policies are trying to do three things:

To do this, government has introduced the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). This framework is a plan to integrate education and training so that it meets the needs of the economy, on the one hand, and allows learners to move between work, formal education and skills training on the other.

  1. Three types of education and training

The NQF identifies three types of education and training:

1) A Qualification

This is a recognised combination of learning outcomes which have been put together for a defined purpose and which give the qualifying learner a defined competence. For example:

These qualifications are registered and certificated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and can be the basis for getting a job or studying further.

2) A Skills Programme

This is either on the job training or a course or module which is part of a broader qualification. Skills programmes are designed for "just in time" and "just enough" learning to meet the specific need in workplace environments. It must be provided by a registered service provider and be designed in such a way that it fits easily together with other skills programmes. Examples of skills programmes are: bricklaying, typing, computer literacy, first aid and so on.

3) A Learnership

This is one way of getting a skill or a qualification. In this situation one does not get the skill or qualification by going to a college or a university. Instead one learns it through a structured workplace learning experience. In the old days, this form of learning was called an apprenticeship. While learnership can include formal courses, at least 30-70% of the learning has to be acquired through doing rather than studying. An example would be someone who learns to be an electrician by working for an electrical contractor. This person will learn on the job, but he or she will also have to write some exams in order to receive a qualification.

  1. Standardisation of all qualifications by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)

All organisations and colleges and employers that offer education and training have to be registered through the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). There are different ways in which SAQA accredits colleges and employers who provide training:

  1. How the Skills Development Grant works

While many people are unemployed in our country, employers also face a shortage of suitably skilled workers. To encourage employers to develop skills amongst workers, the government has implemented the skills development levy-grant scheme. The levy is an amount of money that employers have to pay in tax for skills development of employees. An employer must pay 1% of the total amount paid in salaries to employees including overtime payments, leave pay, bonuses, commissions and lump sum payments. The money is then put into a special fund. 80% is distributed to the SETAs and 20% goes to the National Skills Development fund.

How does an employer access the skills development grant?

An employer can get 50% or more of the levy they paid to government back to use for training their own employees. They can use this money to provide on the job training or sending their employees on courses. The money can be claimed in 4 parts or tranches named grants A, B, C, and D. The procedure to be followed is:

  1. Problem Areas

Many young people are frustrated because they can only benefit from learnerships and skills development programmes if they are able to find a job or a learnership programme.

Many employers do not have the capacity to run skills development programmes or take on young people into learnerships as they do not have the necessary management capacity. As a result they cannot access the skills development grants and therefore they are even less likely to develop the capacity.

You can get advice and support on skills development and learnerships from the Department of Labour, Multi-Purpose Community Centres and SETAs


Every SETA has their own website. You can access them through the website


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