Know the Difference Between a Learnership, Apprenticeship and Internship

When you leave high school, you may or may not go into a tertiary education institution of sorts, or you may go straight to work and gain some experience. You may even decide to do both: work and study. In either situation, gaining work experience (as you will find out when trying to apply for a job) is incredibly important.

Luckily, there are a few ways in which one can receive industry-related experience, learn more about the job and possibly earn some cash if you’re lucky. It can be confusing, though, to know what to search for. Are you in need of a learnership, an apprenticeship or just an internship? Which of those do you qualify for? And which of those do you want to do?


So, what is a learnership? A learnership is, usually, a programme offered for the employees of a company who have matric as their highest qualification. It is tailored to a specific field and provides about 12 months of training after which, the learners will receive a registered certification and be able to either continue learning within that field or further their career.

Learnerships are a way to learn practical skills and receive theoretical course material, while you work and earn an income. It doesn’t get in the way of your job and, afterwards, provides you with the means to further your position in the company with new knowledge and skills.

Because there are customised learnership options, employers are able to further tailor the learnership to the company itself as well, which will make sure you’re suited to do any job that may be required of you, by the company, in the future. So, if you’re happy with where you are and what your prospects are within your current company, should a learnership be offered, be sure to take it.


These are the longer of the three programmes that can last up to four years depending on the trade and company. An apprenticeship, however, is usually offered in the fields of engineering, plumbing and electrical – specifically trade-type jobs.

These positions require a lot of skill, experience and knowledge that cannot be taught by books and are best learnt first-hand, under the guidance of an expert in the field. You choose to do an apprenticeship through a company you’re interested in working with after the programme (who are interested in having you work for them as well) and then it’s, generally, a case of qualified and straight into work.

You’ll find that you end up working through the apprenticeship anyway, just without the luxury of getting paid – it’s a learning programme after all. But you will, most definitely, be getting the necessary experience to take with you when you start working on your own.


And then we have the internship. Internships are relatively common when searching for entry-level jobs online and are popular options for graduates straight out of university. Sometimes, in order to complete your qualification, universities require students to complete an internship at a pre-selected company. The idea behind an internship is to allow inexperienced graduates to gain experience in the hope that they will pursue that career and use the experience to get a permanent job (sometimes within the same company that the internship was offered in).

There are both paid and unpaid internships and the duration can range between anything from a few weeks to 12 months. As there are, generally, a variety of internships available, which means graduates are likely to find an internship in an industry and job-position suited to their studies.

After university, you may not have a clear idea of what you want to do  exactly. And that’s another area where internships can help you. Spending a few months after studying, doing a variety of internships in different positions and various industries will give you valuable experience that will help you decide what it is you like doing and what you don’t. Then when it comes to deciding on a career, you’ll have your internship experience to guide you in the right direction.

Why you want to do one

The benefits of either of these programmes are that you will be gaining experience for the job you’re working towards in the specific industry you’re wanting to go into. University may be able to help you reach towards your dream job one day, but it’s the actual experience in the positions and industry that will get you there. Which is exactly what these programmes are offering.

Yes, it may take you an extra year to start working and earning a proper salary, but going through the process of either a learnership, apprenticeship or internship will definitely be worth it and recognised by whoever employs you.

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