May 26, 2021

Skills development and training

The future development of the South African economy will, to a significant extent, depend on the availability of skilled and appropriately qualified persons to perform the wide variety of tasks associated with a modern and competitive economy.

It is therefore not surprising that greater emphasis has, in the past few years, been placed on establishing a legislative, financial and administrative framework aimed at providing these skills and qualifications. This framework derives primarily from the Skills Development Act, 97 of 1998 (SDA) and the Skills Development levies Act, 9 of 1999 (SDLA).

The SDLA provides the statutory basis for the funding of skills development in South Africa. In terms of its provisions, an employer is obliged to pay a training levy equal to 1 percent of its wage bill. This is collected by the South African Revenue Service.


Learnerships are the most important form of training envisaged by the SDA. They replaced the old apprenticeship system that existed prior to the SDA coming into force. They are used to provide skills to new entrants to the labour market, or to upgrade the skills of existing employees. From a legal perspective a learnership involves an agreement between an employer, a learner and a training provider.  

In terms of this agreement, an employer undertakes to employ the learner for a specified period, to provide the learner with specified practical work experience and to release the learner to attend specified education and training courses. The learner undertakes to work for the employer for the specified period and to attend the specified education and training courses. The training provider must provide the education, training and learner support set out in the agreement (section 16-19).

The terms and conditions of employment of learners are regulated by a Sectoral determination published in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). Disputes concerning the interpretation, application or termination of a learnership agreement, or a contract of a learner, are dealt with by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Skills Programmes

The SDA also makes provision for the creation of skills programmes which can be funded by a Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA). To qualify for such funding, the programme must be occupationally based, and it must constitute a credit to a qualification registered in terms of the National Qualification Framework established In terms of the South African Qualifications Authority Act 58 of 1995. The programme must also use accredited training providers, must accord with the skills development plan of the SETA or the national skills development strategy, and must comply with any other requirements that may be set by the SETA (section 20).

Some critical skills that require development in South Africa include:

  • Information Technology
  • Engineering
  • Scientists and Biotechnology
  • Health professionals and related clinical sciences
  • Architects and Surveyors
  • Artisans, Boilermakers and Welders
  • Chattered Accountants, to name a few.

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