The Route to Becoming an Engineer

Broadly speaking, it is considered that engineers should be ‘innovators’ responsible for complex tasks, and may use engineering principles where necessary to develop unique solutions. Engineering technologists solve engineering problems by using proven techniques and are thus the ‘doers’ who implement broadly defined tasks or projects.

Engineering technicians are the backbone of infrastructure support, and carry out well-defined tasks such as managing operations, maintenance, production, etc. Certificated engineers are required in large installations which require machinery or power considerations such as in power stations, large treatment works and the like. A complete hierarchy of technical staff should therefore be in place to plan, develop, operate and maintain services as shown in the diagram below.

The diagram provides an idea of the possible routes available to a prospective learner to becoming an engineer. There is no one route for a learner. One can “upgrade” a qualification by doing part-time studies until obtaining a degree via a University. In other words, a learner can start with a diploma and register for further studies on a part time basis.

Types of learnerships That prospective Learners Can Take


An apprenticeship is a technical training system, which includes practical and theoretical components. An apprentice must complete theoretical and
practical training under the guidance of a mentor and pass phase tests.
After successfully completing the above, the apprentice will sit for a final trade test and qualify as an artisan.

Trade Test

To qualify as a designated tradesman, an apprentice must pass an approved
trade test in the relevant trade. Such trade test must be taken at a test centre accredited by NAMB.


A programme for learners to acquire tuition at a College or University for
certain period of time in order to achieve a formal qualification i.e. certificate, diploma or degree


A candidate is a person who has satisfied/completed the educational
requirements toward registration in a category. He/she is receiving
training and gaining experience through employment with the intention of
attaining the competency required for professional registration in that
category. It’s a programme that enables qualified people to obtain
professional registration with the respective council.


A structured and monitored workplace experience opportunity offered by an employer to a graduate for a fixed period of time with the objective of
gaining workplace experience within a real work environment.


A learnership is a learning programme that leads to an occupational
qualification or apart qualification. A learnership is traditionally a twelve month programme which combines institutional learning (theory) and work experience (practical).

Skills Programme

A skills programme is occupationally based and when completed, will
provide credits towards a full qualification registered on the NQF (National
Qualifications Framework). A skills programme is a shorter version of a learnership and is meant to address short-term needs with long-term
benefits. The intention is to ultimately lead to a full qualification.

Work Integrated Learning

A structured programme for work experience afforded to a student at a
University of Technology (HET Student Placement) or TVET College (TVET
Student Placement) in a workplace as part of their studies to obtain a

Recognition Of Prior Learning

Recognition of Prior Learning is a process that compares previous learning of a learner, whether it’s done formally or informally with experience. In
practice the learners or employees with non-traditional training are assessed against the same unit standards or exit level outcomes of qualifications using the same assessment criteria for learners learning through traditional institutions.

How do I apply for CETA funded programmes?

The CETA receives money from levy paying companies within the construction sector. The SETA then disburses the monies through Mandatory Grants for those companies paying levy and through
Discretionary Grants, to companies that apply for special programmes as advertised by CETA for implement projects to address scarce and critical skills.

The companies will then implement the projects under the coordination of CETA with appointed CETA accredited training providers. These companies/implementation partners will ensure the responsibility to safeguard the recruitment of prospective learners onto the relevant funded programmes. The application process for all prospective learners is open and transparent. The CETA or funded company will place adverts in
national newspapers, own company websites and other print media for learners to apply by a specific cut-off date.

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