Company and Government job advertising now target people with disabilities to try to fill their “2% of employees disabled” target. It is a great time to get work and develop skills to improve your work opportunities. But first, think about the work available and the qualification you would like to get.

NQF qualifications:

There are 10 NQF levels of education, with study and funding options available for all levels. To enter courses you need a qualification in the previous level e.g. to take Level 3 courses you need Level 2 qualifications. If you have a qualification at the same level, you still have to take the courses that are specific to the qualification you want e.g. If you have matric (NQF level 4) and you want to do AutoCad training (Level 4), you get credit for the unit standards that are the same on each qualification e.g. communication skills, but you would have to complete the work specific unit standards such as AutoCAD design. At the end you will have two Level 4 certificates, matric and AutoCAD.

NQF Level 1 qualifications are for people starting in the labour market and working under supervision, or for people who have simple home businesses. NQF Level 2 - 6 qualifications are offered by FET colleges and cover skilled and semiskilled jobs.  NQF Levels above 7 are qualifications from universities, such as degrees in Arts, Architecture, Commerce, Health, and Science.

Below are examples of the lowest starting points. For example, you can start diamond sorting at Level 4 and move onto diamond cutting at Level 5.

Fees vary widely across education institutions, so it is important to compare costs before committing to a specific institution. If you do not complete the qualification, you will get a statement of the unit standards you passed. These still improve your employment options or can be used as credits for other courses.

Funding a course:

Funding options are: apprenticeships, learnerships, loans, bursaries and scholarships, and internships.


This is employment and training in an artisan skill or “trade”, with a manufacturing company. This means that you will work in the industry and get sent on FET short courses that can run for roughly 6 weeks per course. Overall training can take 5 years. Manufacturing may be in crafts, building, machinery or metal, just to name a few. The National List of Occupations covers “artisan trades” from plumber to painter, blacksmith to boilermaker, tractor mechanic to aircraft maintenance, clock maker to goldsmith, electrician to telecommunications technician, butcher to chef and hairdresser to tailor. Artisan training is part of a national priority-training scheme monitored by the Department of Labour, offered at NQF Levels 2 – 5.  


Learnerships are available for artisan training and other vocations, such as bookkeeping, social work and broadcast engineering. Like an apprenticeship, learnerships combine work place experience and formal learning. Whilst learnerships go to NQF Level 7, the majority are for Levels 2 - 5.  Each SETA has learnerships at colleges (FET and private) or with an employer. Unemployed learners get temporary work contracts and allowances for training expenses. 4% of all learnerships are targeted for people with disability.

Find out more about learnerships from the Department of Labour and register on their database to keep informed of suitable learnerships, as they are offered any time during the year. Potential employers also use the database to find people qualified by apprenticeship or learnerships.

Student Loans

Loans for SAQA registered courses may be from banks, private loan companies and the National Student Financial Aid programme (NSFAS). They may be awarded for course fees only, or for fees, books, accommodation and travel. For this, you will need to reapply each year. The NFSAS fund is aimed at previously disadvantaged or poor students and does not cover courses at private colleges.  Some loans are specific to an education institution and cannot be transferred, or the institution itself may offer loans from a specific bank. To apply for a loan, you must have proof of course registration, an ID, your previous academic achievement and an adult who can prove they can grant “surety” for you, i.e. they will cover the loan if you do not pay it back. NSFAS loans can be converted to bursaries if you have good academic performance.

Student loans are usually offered at a reasonable rate of interest e.g. 10.5%. However, interest occurs from the first day of the loan and is automatically debited to the person that signed “surety” for you. Be wary of companies that offer loans without giving details of repayment times or interest rates, especially “loan sharks” who can charge up to 60% interest! There are also administration fees and monthly service fees to pay. Banks recommend insurance cover for the loan, about 0,35c per R1000 loaned.  You have to pay the loan back on completing your training, or immediately after you stop studying for whatever reason. Only the NSFAS offers a loan repayment scheme linked to your earnings, starting at 3% of your salary when you get a job. A loan may take up to 10 years to payback, unless you commit to paying it off quickly before getting other debts.

Bursaries & Scholarships

These are grants of money that are not repaid on qualification. However, some organisations expect you to work for them after qualifying, or payback the money if you do not complete the course. A scholarship is awarded to outstanding academic or sports achievement. Bursaries have a wider scope and may help poor or disadvantaged students and are offered for university and FET college courses. Some cover course fees only, but others include books, transport and accommodation. Many bursaries require you to complete one year of tertiary education first to establish your academic ability at a tertiary institution. To get a bursary one year does not mean you will get it for each year of study, as they are awarded to those who can maintain a high level of academic achievement.

NSFAS offers bursaries for general studies and for “scarce skills” such as doctors, therapists, teachers and social workers. National and provincial government departments offer bursaries through the NSFAS, such as the KZN Treasury Bursary, and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (DAFF). They actively advertise for people with disabilities, with The Department of Higher Education and Training offering bursaries specifically to people with disabilities, which include assistive devices required for study. These bursaries require you to work for the government after qualifying.

Other bursary schemes may be limited to a specific education institution, a specific course, or a specific company, in which case you are expected to work the bursary back. It is important to apply for bursaries that apply to the field of study you have chosen and submit the application before the due date, as bursaries are hotly contested. You will not be allocated the bursary until you start attending the course, so will have to fund the registration fees yourself.

There are hundreds of bursaries and scholarships available. Each education institution will provide information on funding options on their web site, or send you a booklet. However, you will have to approach them individually. Remember the application dates vary and some are as early as March. Look at:


Internships are for people with a qualification but no work experience. This includes students in their last year of study who need practical experience to complete the course.  Internships give work experience for a wide range of jobs, which would otherwise not be available to the individual. Interns get a fixed term appointment lasting between six weeks to one year, where they will not be paid, but may get a stipend.

Most government departments, SETA and many private companies, have internship programmes to fill “scarce skills” gaps in their institution. The government gives preference to people who received a loan or bursary through the NSFAS, or graduates who are starting research projects that fit in with individual department’s stated priorities. SETA offers internships for Level 3 qualifications and upwards. Internships may offer similar benefits to regular employment, such as sick leave and vacation time. Internships are often advertised in national papers throughout the year.

FET colleges also offer basic education courses such as ABET, and Level 2-3 qualifications.