What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a work-based route to a qualification for learners who are interested in working in a practical, technical field, so that they can become certified artisans. An apprenticeship is similar to a learnership, except that it is always focused on a trade. Apprentices attend formal instruction sessions at a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college or other training institution to acquire the trade-related knowledge and theory and practical hand skills, and also spend some time in a workplace working under the guidance of a qualified artisan to become proficient in the trade.

An apprentice is employed through an apprenticeship contract signed with an employer and a training provider to complete a full apprenticeship programme. After completion of the programme the apprentices who are ready can apply to do trade tests at an accredited trade test centre. If they are successful, they will be certified as artisans, e.g. as a cabinet maker, diamond cutter, goldsmith, hairdresser, tailor, toolmaker or upholsterer.

Apprentices earn while they learn as they are paid for the time they spend working with an employer during their apprenticeship. Apprenticeships equip learners with skills that enable them to find employment, or enable them to run their own businesses. Artisans are in high demand in South Africa as many trades are listed as “scarce skills”. The shortage of skilled trade workers is confirmed by a Talent Shortage Survey conducted in May 2015. It found that, for the fourth consecutive year, vacancies for these workers continue to be the most difficult to fill.

It is possible, under certain conditions, for persons to apply for a trade test to become an artisan through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). A process called Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL) will be used for the listed trades. (This replaces the previous process which was referred to as ‘Section 28’, on the basis of Section 28 of the Manpower Training Act of 1981, which has been repealed.) The term ‘apprentice’ is not used in this website for these RPL applicants; it is only used to refer to those who complete the full training after signing an apprenticeship contract.