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Skills Development

Learning beyond the classroom




The context for these discussions and resources is the South African National Qualification Qualifications Framework and the Skills Development Act which introduced learnerships and skills programmes.



  1. skill, accomplishment, acquirement, acquisition, attainment -- (an ability that has been acquired by training)
  2. skill, science -- (ability to produce solutions in some problem domain; "the skill of a well-trained boxer"; "the sweet science of pugilism") WordNet

To define skills seems to be a skill in itself.

So let me give it a try:

The capability to respond, in a practiced way, to the varying conditions and challenges posed by our situation, jobs and context and are determined by our environment to accomplish a goal or purpose


A person with a defined skills set who can practice an occupation, (trade or profession).

Elsewhere I defined skills as:

“the embodiment of acquired knowledge, experience and the practiced ability to read and respond to changes in the environment with appropriate actions and decisions to achieve a desired end-product or a state of equilibrium.”


Skills as metaphor

Skills, as in 'scarce skills', 'high-level skills', flight or loss of 'skills' is a metaphor for skilled people.


Skills Development

The issue of skills development is discussed in this knowledge map


Scope of the definition

The scope of this definition requires a leap from the traditional definitions which simply focus on mechanical and bodily responses to include high level functions, such as:

  • Negotiating skills
  • Professional skills of all kinds
  • Political skills


Skills vs competence

There are a lot of people who are entranced by this concept of competence. They revere this idea. Somehow the highest ideal in their lives is to become competent. In dong so they then tick off having acquired a “competence”.

This is the stuff of mediocrity. Being competent is to achieve the generally accepted standard of performance – no more. Ultimately competence is simply about conformance.

You require skill to become competent – certainly – but the real mark of the skilled, is that they are beyond this simple measure. If another standard of competence emerges they are capable to modifying and adjusting their performance to match the new standard required.

Being skilled means the ability to adjust, to adapt in response to changing needs and contexts. Skill implies capability, rather than competence, proficiency and, at the highest levels of skills, we can speak of mastery.

The idea that this higher level of skill can be achieved though simple education and training interventions is unspeakably naive. Such skills require the engagement, persistence, and above all, practice.




Converting apprenticeship resources to learnerships

For those who attended various workshops on converting apprenticeships to learnerships here is an example of 'pouring' existing modules and theoretical topics into the four-column framework. The framework is based on the recently (Nov 2005) published GTZ booklet A curriculum model for the integration of education and training to achieve occupational competence

Click to download (Excel spreadsheet in Zip Archive)


Integrated learning

An example of a learning programme which develops and integrates:

  • Explicit knowledge

  • Critical outcomes

  • Workplace learning

This was an exercise in early 2002 & 2003 to arrive a model for learnership curriculum.

It was also to demonstrate that a concept, heat, which superficially would have been dealt with under science also linked to a range of knowledge domains.


Implementing a learnership

A learnership is a complex system. It involves setting up a range of support mechanisms. This diagram is an overview.

Should you require it we have a detailed project management tool to assist you in the process



The traditional notion of a final summative assessment as in a trade test or in a final exam is unsustainable in the long rung. This resource (PowerPoint Show) is a brief conceptual outline of assessment as quality assurances


Developing a learnership curriculum

Developing a curriculum for a workplace-based learning process based on unit standards was not an easy process as so many thought.

This curriculum framework for plastics Manufacturing NQF Level 2 was an early effort


Approaches to learning

Cognitive apprenticeships are principles derived from the traditional apprenticeship system for classroom learning. The model is, however very useful for those trying do develop what is, essentially, a new form of apprenticeship. This resources is an overview




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