learnerships, internships, apprenticeships and bursaries



It is essential for school leavers, graduates and job seekers to know the difference between Bursaries, Learnerships, Apprenticeships and Internships, to apply for the correct option based on either their knowledge or highest qualification. It is also imperative for Human Resource and Learning and Development Managers to understand the terms correctly in order to differentiate between the various options.

The basic difference between Bursaries, Learnerships, Apprenticeships and Internships are as follows:

  • Bursaries are generally for those studying towards a degree. Each bursary will have a different requirement. Usually, the company/organization pays for your years of study. In return, the bursary recipient works from them for the equivalent number of years after graduation, to pay them back.
  • Learnerships are on the job training under management of a trained/skilled professional. This can include vocational training (the part of tertiary education and training which provides accredited training for job related and technical skills) at a college which leads to a National Qualifications Framework(NQF) qualification.
  • Apprenticeship is a form of on the job training under management of a trained/skilled professional whilst learning the theory in a class environment. Apprenticeships usually last over a 3-4 years period.
  • Internships are usually divided into Undergraduate- and Graduate-Internships. Undergraduate Internships are for students currently enrolled in university and require experience during their holidays. Graduate internships are for students who have graduated. Both Undergraduate- and Graduate-internships can be paid or unpaid. Internships are designed to enhance practical skills as opposed to theoretical knowledge, in the workplace.

The biggest misconception today is that Learnerships, Internships and Apprenticeships are only for graduates. This is factually untrue and the reason that it is so important to understand the different terms.

How to choose


It would be advisable for candidates with a Grade 12 as their highest education level to consider this. These programs are directly connected to a specific field/occupation of work.

During this program, candidates will gain on the job training to help them excel in a specific field. These programmes are usually structured in such a way to teach candidates theory and practical skills. The practical skills are usually catered for by an accredited Learnership provider.

Upon completion of the programme Candidates will receive a certificate indicating their level of achievement and registered on the National Qualification Framework (NQF). The NQF qualification is nationally recognised and will enable candidates to look for a job or further their education in that specific field.

SpecCon, a SETA accredited provider, offers Employed and Unemployed Learnerships and will be able to assist you with all of your requirements.


Internships is more geared towards candidates who have completed, or are near completion of their degree or diploma. Different fields of expertise require various completion stages in their studies. Candidates will have to familiarize themselves with the different internship options before choosing their field of study.

Internships can be paid or unpaid. Unpaid Internships should be considered if they offer candidates the opportunity to establish relationships between potential employers, gain real world practical experience, add to their skills whilst getting an introduction to the culture and etiquette of the business world. 

Most Universities/colleges degrees or diplomas do not provide all the skills and knowledge to prepare candidates for the real world. The practical skills and knowledge gained through an Internship will give the candidate more self-confidence and understanding in their work environment. Internships can range anywhere from a week to 12 months duration, wherein the candidates bridge the gap between the work environment and the academic know-how they gained at university/college.

SpecCon, an accredited learnership provider, offers various accredited training courses in Management qualifications, e-learning development, assessment development, excel development (available online or can be presented by trainer) which will assist Interns during the transitional phase from University/College to the working environment.


Concentrating mostly on trade, an Apprenticeship is a program that usually includes a 3-6 years labour programme that focuses on a specific trade/industry. Apprenticeships are for candidates who have some certainty about their future profession.

Apprenticeships usually concentrate on more practical professions which require anything from 3-6 years of training. Candidates will have to ensure that they meet the requirements for the apprenticeship they wish to enter. Due to the nature and long period of apprenticeships, there are often a guarantee of permanent employment upon completion.

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