Workplace learning

Find out more about how the governent’s learning and skills development through employment is focused in this article by Lesley Phillips.

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) has identified more than 20 industry sectors in the economy where learning and skills development can take place through employment.
According to Media Club South Africa:
“Among the key sectors that contribute to the gross domestic product and keep the economic engine running are manufacturing, retail, financial services, communications, mining, agriculture and tourism”.
Within these sectors are many organisational types that include:

  • Government`; These organisations belong to SA government and provide public services (such as education, health and security), also infrastructure and legislation for business activities.
  • Parastatal: These are state owned business enterprises. They often provide services and infrastructure to the country, and may not be as profit driven as privately owned businesses. Well known examples are Eskom, Telkom and Transnet.
  • Heavy Industry: These organisations are capital intensive and frequently automated with large plant sites and utilising heavy machinery.    They often supply other businesses rather than consumers directly. Examples are the automobile, steel, aluminium, mining and petrochemical industries.
  • Light Industry: These organisations usually have comparatively less capital and equipment requirements than heavy industry, although they are often more labour intensive. Their products can be sold direct to their consumers, rather than to other businesses. Examples are the clothing, food and electrical appliance industries.
  • Small Business: The organisation types above all refer to large scale entities, however small business or SMME (Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises) represent a significant and important part of the South African economy. At the recent Annual Small Business Summit (October,2011) it was asserted that small, micro and medium business activities contribute 40% to gross national product, and provide 50% of South Africa’s employment. As such this type of organisation is of great significance in our country, and it is the intention of government to grow this vital sector of the economy. Small business can be defined in different ways: number of employees, annual turnover, or by gross asset/capital value. The Department of Trade and Industry uses number of employees to distinguish small business (20 to 49 employees), and medium (50 to 199 employees), whilst for tax purposes the South African Revenue Service regards a turnover of less than R14 million Rand as a small business.

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How does organisation type impact learning?

When planning your career path it is important to identify the features of your own workplace that will affect your development both now and in the future.

Workplace Focus

The industry sector and organisation type will influence the specialism and subject content of your learning.


In general the larger the business environment the more resources will be available to you in terms of colleagues, HR/training departments, IT facilities and reference material.


If you were employed by a car manufacturer you would be working in the manufacturing sector, in a heavy industrial organisation. It is likely that the organisation is large, highly structured and probably multi-national.

Your career may well take you to another country at a later stage, so acquiring proficiency in an additional language such as French could help you to communicate with colleagues and clients. Due to the highly structured nature of the business you may find it difficult to communicate with other departments to broaden your knowledge and skills.

On the other hand you if you were employed by a small privately owned engineering company that makes components for car engines; you would also be working in the manufacturing sector but in light industry. The business would be classed as a small business, and it is likely that would have to find learning resources outside of the business, in order to pursue your career path. You would have the advantage of being able to communicate across the business due to its small size, and you would have a broader view of the business as a whole.

Oct 2013

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