In-house training: 3 ways to get your career started

As South Africa commemorates Youth Month, it’s important to identify the main problem holding our youth back from a brighter future: unemployment. Official statistics for the first quarter of 2022 put the South African unemployment rate among those aged 15 to 24 at 63.9%, and at 42.1% for those aged 25 to 34. Both are cause for concern, considering that the official national rate for unemployment across all ages stands at 34.5% (Source: Quarterly Labour Force Survey).

This is a strong motivation for government and business to make quality skills-development programmes for the youth a top priority. If you’re a young person looking for opportunities, there are several institutions and companies that can equip you with skills by offering practical, on-the-job training or work experience with the power to kick-start your career.

3 different ways to acquire workplace experience and skills

Applying for and enrolling in one of these programmes can give you a valuable glimpse into what your chosen career will entail, which helps dispel any myths or unrealistic expectations you may have. Internships, learnerships or apprenticeships all offer valuable workplace experience programmes, and the one that is appropriate for you will depend on the field in which you’ve chosen to pursue a career. Each method operates differently, because each applies to a different type of job.


An internship is short-term work experience offered by companies or organisations to give you entry-level exposure to the industry in which you’d like to work. Some degrees, diplomas or certificates from accredited tertiary institutions require you to complete an internship to qualify, while other internships can be accessed only after you’ve achieved a formal qualification. Depending on the industry or type of job, though, you can also find internships that look more at your practical experience that your educational qualifications.
You can find a list of available internships, and more information about internships, on sites like Internships South Africa. An internship provides experiential learning, as you work alongside established professionals who can mentor and coach you. Many employers place greater value on work experience than theoretical training, so having an internship on your CV can give you a head-start when you apply for a job. 


You may want to start your own business, which could result in employment for even more people


Most internships do not pay, although some offer an allowance to cover meals and transport. However, the value of an internship lies in helping you build a network of relationships that will be useful in your career, while you learn about your chosen field from the inside. An internship can, in some cases, lead to a job offer when you finish your training, so it may help you onto the first step of your career journey.

Crucially, internships also offer you a chance to see what doesn’t work for you – if you realise you’ve chosen the wrong profession, you can change tack while there’s still time. And remember, an internship should be empowering – it should give you relevant learning opportunities in the workplace. It should not a position that confines you only to menial tasks, while offering no concrete skills training or career development.


A learnership is workplace-based training that requires a formal contract between the learner and the employer. Training is subject to scrutiny by a qualifications body; in South Africa the South African Qualifications Authority performs this function.

Once a learnership is completed successfully, you’ll receive a registered occupational or professional qualification from a formal institution of learning. Just like an internship, a learnership helps you develop an initial professional network and collect good references for future work opportunities.


Apprenticeships combine theory, practical work and workplace practice in your chosen trade to develop trade-specific skills. South Africa has a shortage of qualified artisans, including diesel mechanics, instrument technicians, riggers, auto electricians, engineers, builders, plumbers and many others.

If you’re interested in any of these trades, you will need an existing company to accept you as an apprentice. An apprenticeship usually lasts from 2 to 4 years and once you’ve completed it, you will need to pass a trade test to be issued an artisan certificate of competence.

Requirements for an apprenticeship vary, depending on the organisation offering it. Matric is usually a basic requirement and most apprenticeships are accessible without any tertiary education. The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations monitors apprenticeship training in South Africa.

Practical training unleashes youth potential

We’d be wise to heed the warning by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan: ‘Any society that does not succeed in tapping into the energy and creativity of its youth will be left behind.’

Internships, learnerships and apprenticeships can help us reduce our high youth unemployment by creating a snowball effect. Once you’ve been through in-the-workplace training, secured a job and been working for a few years, you may want to start your own business, which could result in employment for even more people.