Learning to earn a living


According to the Statistics SA *Quarterly Labour Force Survey, released in the first quarter of 2013, there are 4.6-million unemployed South Africans. The country’s official unemployment rate now sits at 25.2% of the total population.

LTE 1Students attending one of Learn to Earn’s 11 week Sewing courseThe reasons for this are many; a legacy of structural inequality; a failing education system; a lack of jobs for unskilled workers; and in a vicious cycle, people lacking the skills to enter the workplace. The knock-on effect is deepening poverty, and a continued lack of access to job opportunities for generation after generation.

Aiming to break this cycle of poverty is Learn to Earn (LtE), a skills development organisation based in Khayelitsha, and in the seaside town of Hermanus, in the Western Cape.

The organisation’s philosophy is “give a hand up and not a hand out”; and it focuses particularly on helping people take charge of their own financial and social wellbeing.

“LtE was established in 1989 and since then we have had over 10 000 people graduate from our programmes, “says Barbara Lipp, communications and events manager at Learn to Earn.

“For those who work and volunteer at Learn to Earn the most rewarding part is seeing the change in our graduates’ perspectives of themselves,” says Lipp.

“It is an amazing moment to see a person change from being in a negative, self-depreciating space to that of wholeness and realising that they have a role to play in changing their communities and South Africa for the better.”


Skills courses offered include Sewing, Home Management, Woodwork, Office Administration, Graphic Design, and Point-of-Sale and Customer Service. Each course has different entry requirements, which range from basic literacy and numeracy to a completed Grade 10. All courses include a Life Skills component and Old Mutual’s On the Money basic finance skills programme.

The life skills course includes modules on self-awareness, self-esteem, family relationships and conflict resolution, CV writing and job preparation, as well as dealing with substance abuse.

The Feel Good Project aims to train unskilled and low-skilled people to work in the retail supply chain. The project was initiated in 2008 in partnership with South African retail giant, TFG (The Foschini Group). Project trainees are selected from students who have completed one or more of the organisation’s market-related training courses for further training in the retail, supply and warehousing sectors.


LTE Learn to Earn’s Business Resource Centre aims to assist graduates in converting their newly acquired sewing skills into income generating activitiesLearn to Earn’s three-year Enterprise Enabling Environment or E³ programme arms budding entrepreneurs with small business skills to open up their own businesses. The course teaches students bookkeeping, marketing, and human resource management, among others. The students work with mentors experienced at running small businesses.

“As an organisation, Learn to Earn’s mission is to develop people, especially unemployed people, socially, economically, emotionally and spiritually,” says Lipp.

“When we achieve our mission, we are then able to start achieving our vision – to eradicate unemployment and other legacies of injustice in South Africa and Africa as a whole.”


On average it costs just more than R9 000 to put one of the participants through the programmes and Learn to Earn welcomes corporate and personal donations. The organisation also holds fundraising dinners and works with partners to pay running and programme costs.

To find out more or donate to Learn to Earn, email the organisation at info@learntoearn.org.za, or contact Aleks Jablonska on 021 671 2230 for more details.

*The QLFS is a household-based sample survey conducted by StatsSA and covers the labour market activities of people aged 15 to 64.