In 2018, five fields have emerged as the top distance learning choices among students who need to earn while they learn, upskill, or gain a qualification to complement their practical experience. These include HR, Business and Supply Chain Management, Early Childhood Education, and technical skills development courses such as Occupational Health and Safety and Engineering.
“With our increasingly competitive job market and our tough economic environment, fewer people are able to take off a year or three to study, which means that distance learning is a viable and attractive option for thousands of South Africans,” says Barend van den Berg, MD of Oxbridge Academy, which serves more than 20 000 students annually.
He says these students are increasingly opting for the distance learning route, and choosing training options that can either strengthen their existing position in the workplace, or that can get them a foot in the door. The most popular fields this year include:
- TECHNICAL COURSES
Engineering and occupational health and safety continue to be popular choices, says Van den Berg, given the high demand for competently trained vocational practitioners both locally and internationally.
“When it comes to OHS, these courses cover a range of practical knowledge and skills to enable learners to identify and contain risk factors in the work environment, and are a great option for those who want to develop the skills needed to be an effective safety representative and who want to learn how to implement health and safety procedures in the workplace.”
“The National Certificate: N4 Educare, which is registered on the NQF and accredited by the QCTO, represents the first of 3 levels in the Educare stream. With the rising demand for quality early childhood care, this qualification provides a foot in the door for those who want to start their own ECD centre or who want to pursue a career as a daycare centre administrator or manager,” says Van den Berg.
He adds that, once completed successfully up to N6 level, Educare students who also have 18 months’ practical experience in the field can apply to the Department of Higher Education and Training to obtain a National Diploma in Educare.
- HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Another very popular course is the National Certificate: N4 Human Resource Management.
“Studying this course is a good option if you want to develop basic job-relevant skills in HR and work towards a career in personnel training, personnel management, or labour relations,” says Van den Berg.
- LOGISTICS & SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
“The short learning programmes in this field familiarise students with the principles of supply chain and logistics and equip them with the skills they need to perform essential functions in this exciting and diverse field.
“Studying one of these courses is a good option if you want to improve, enhance, or update your skills when it comes to supply chain and logistics principles,” Van den Berg says.
- BUSINESS MANAGEMENT
“The recommended study period for a National Certificate in Business Management is 12 months per N-level, but students can study at their own pace and determine their schedules according to available exam sessions,” says Van den Berg.
“Once successfully completed up to N6 level, provided that students have 18 months’ practical experience in the field, they can apply to the DHET to obtain a National Diploma in Business Management. These courses are a good option if you want an introduction to business management and you want to gain the basic skills you need to start working in the business environment,” he says.
Van den Berg notes that Matriculants and young working people are increasingly opting for vocational training – as evidenced in the enrolment figures for the top five distance learning fields. Vocational training is training that is specific to a career or a trade, and focuses on the practical application of skills in the workplace.
“Vocational training develops practical, immediately relevant skills that open doors in the job market. The perception that vocational training is worth less than a degree is therefore false, as vocational learners acquire both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, which better equips them for workplace integration,” he says.
Additionally, it has become common practice for millennials to move around in the workplace and to periodically change careers.
“Vocational training via distance learning is therefore ideal for them, as it gives them hands-on skills and is an accessible form of studying, enabling them to earn while they learn.”