The Three Ships of Training


In implementing training, our team often refer to the “Three Ships”: Learnerships, Apprenticeships, and Internships. Much like it’s Whiskey namesake, these three concepts have nuances that every business has to understand and appreciate when implementing training. Let’s outline each -ship:


For learners: Learnerships provide learners with an NQF qualification, but the course structure is built around practical work experience and classroom teaching in different ratios. This is an amazing way to earn a qualification since it allows for experience and income to the learner, as well as theoretical teaching of core principles needed to conduct the work. With a Learnership, learners can earn qualifications such as an NQF 4 Business Administration while mostly working and earning a salary. Unemployed learners on Learnerships are paid a stipend during the course of their studies.

For businesses: Businesses implementing Learnerships can benefit from ETIs and IT180 Tax Rebates and have the additional benefit of the learner’s productivity while they are studying towards their qualification. However, businesses can also implement unemployed Learnerships (the learner does not work for you) and the business does not have to absorb the learner upon completion of their studies, while still claiming the financial benefits from those programmes.


Apprenticeships are like Learnerships in that a qualification is earned by working and studying, but it is mainly focused on trades where the learner earn a trade qualification by working under a skilled professional, then learning the core theoretical principles through classroom teaching. These programmes typically take 18-24 months to complete, after which the learner will earn a trade. Apprenticeships can be paid a stipend during the course of their studies and is a great way to obtain a practical qualification alongside experience, all under the care of a mentor, for trades such as boilermaking, various mechanics, fitters and turners, welders, and other specialised trades.


Internships are designed for learners that have theoretical knowledge (they already obtained a qualification of some sort, or are studying towards one) to earn practical experience – either paid or unpaid. It is focused on enhancing the theoretical knowledge through practical application and can last anything from a holiday’s length to a year. Internships can be offered to graduate students or to undergraduate students and it is a great way to prepare a student or learner for their future occupation and to allow them to gain experience like someone on a Learnership would.

In addition to these Three Ships, businesses can also implement Skills Development programmes using Bursaries, where the business pays for a student’s studies towards a degree. Bursaries are a great way of recruitment to absorb students that have finished with their studies, but there is no obligation to pay a stipend or to absorb the student upon completion of their studies.

In a nutshell, the Three Ships for implementing Skills Development programmes arm businesses with a variety of ways to allocate their spend and efforts according to their capacity. Each of these has its own merits and when implemented strategically, businesses and learners can benefit greatly.