Skills Programmes – short, focused skills development interventions to address specific needs within business and industry

Opinion by Anton Visser, Chief Operations Officer of SA Business School & Alefbet Learning

Learnerships have been one of the most significant catalysts for long-term employment and skills development in South Africa for the past 20 years. Over this time, as the skills needs of business and industries have evolved, so too have the learning and development pathways for young South Africans. Arising directly out of learnerships, shorter, focused skills programmes have been developed that help businesses upskill their people in highly focused development efforts, while young people get to work towards a full qualification with every skills programme they embark upon.

A skills programme is made up of a set of unit standards that are combined together to form a short course that also bears credits on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). These short programmes are usually a few days in duration, and the unit standards are taken from the various modules within an existing learnership programme.  This means that when taking a skills programme, a learner will obtain credits towards a registered qualification on the NQF through completing further appropriate skills programmes.

What is a Skills Programme?

  • A skills programs is compiled by the employer, after a particular skills need has been identified as part of the workplace skills planning process. The program will then be registered with the relevant SETA and is also certified through the NQF-based accreditation route.
  • Skills programs are one or more-unit standards that lead to a skill and earns a credit on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) towards a qualification. They are designed as an occupationally-based, short-term learning program.
  • One of the key benefits of a skills programme is that employers and training providers are able to structure a programme that meets the specific skills needs of the employer and employees, for a particular skill. A learner can learn a specific skill set based on a group of unit standards, in a matter of days or weeks depending on the number of unit standards covered, instead of having to complete an entire qualification as in the case of a Learnership, which typically takes one year or more.
  • The big benefit is that while they are much shorter than a learnership and highly focused, these skills programmes can also culminate in an NQF qualification if the learner decides to pursue the completion of the remaining unit standards.
  • Training is offered by an accredited training provider and at the end of the course the learner receives a ‘Statement of Results’.
  • Just like a learnership, skills programmes are offered by employers or businesses, they earn points that go towards the BBBEE score of the business, and they are available to both employed and unemployed learners.

Skills programmes cover fundamental skills which are applicable to various industries and sectors. As your workforce develops and your people need to diversify their skills sets, skills programmes are invaluable tools in providing short, focused learning interventions to close identified skills gaps – for example finance for non-finance managers, customer service, conflict management, change management, team management, business ethics and so on.

Benefits of skills programmes

  • Execute training more easily and quicker and see the impact straight away. More economical in terms of time and resources.
  • Choose from a wide range of hard and soft skills courses, based on proven and accredited unit standards.
  • Ideal solution for developing competencies in specific identified areas.
  • Compliment and augment your other training initiatives with specific short courses and develop a culture of ongoing learning.
  • Improve your BBBEE score.

In leveraging the full benefit of skills programmes, employed and unemployed learnerships, work with a professional training partner that is able to build a bespoke learning and development solution around the needs of your business and its human capital, capacities and budget allocations. It’s not just about the tax incentives and an improved B-BBEE scorecard, but about laying powerful foundations for your people in meaningful, sustainable jobs and career paths to address critical skills shortages and deliver a competitive advantage for businesses and our economy.

For more information visit

Scroll to Top