The Correctional Services Learnerships South Africa | How To Apply for the DCS Learnerships?

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is a department of the South African government. It is responsible for running South Africa’s prison system. The department has about 40,000 staff and is responsible for the administration of 240 correctional centres, which accommodate about 160,000 inmates.

Learnerships in South Africa are work-based learning progammes, aimed at addressing the dual problems of skills shortages and high unemployment in the country. They are offered by both Government and Private Sector institutions. These learnerships form part of the government’s National Skills Development Strategy to create skills and ease poverty and unemployment.

The Department of Correctional Services offers several hundred learnerships each year, with learners being placed at its correctional or social centers across the country. The Correctional Services learnerships provide an entry to the Correctional Services post of Correctional Officer.

The Department of Correctional Services Explained

correctional services learnership

The philosophy of the Department is to correct offending behavior and rehabilitate offenders, rather than just punish them. It aims to ensure that society is safe and protected and that inmates are incarcerated under humane, safe and secure conditions. 

Attention is given to equipping offenders with the skills and education they need to be employable and to sustain themselves upon their release. Many complete their matriculation, technical or university studies while in prison. There are working farms and bakeries run by inmates to provide food back to the centers.

There are also production workshops that specialize in cabinet-making, wood machining, upholstery, furniture polishing, welding, plate metalwork, fitting & turning, spray painting and powder coating, sign-writing, jig tool and dye making, garment making, and so on. They sell their products to other Government departments.

There are over 200 Community Corrections offices across the country. They form part of a  programme to supervise inmates on parole or probation and reintegrate them into their communities. The goal is to prevent repeat-offending.

The DCS has a head office and 6 regional offices, covering the 9 provinces. 

Table 1: Department of Correctional Services head office and regional offices

RegionPhysical address
Head Office124 WF Nkomo Street, Poyntons Building (West Block), Pretoria
Limpopo /Mpumalanga /North WestCorner Paul Kruger & Johannes Ramokhoase Streets, Pretoria
Gauteng1077 Forum East Building, Arcadia Street, Hatfield, Pretoria
Free State/Northern Cape103 Zastron Street, Agrimed Building, Westdene, Bloemfontein
KwaZulu Natal25 College Road, Pietermaritzburg
Eastern CapeOcean Terrace, Office Block B, Moore Street, Quigney, East London
Western CapeBreede River Street Monte Vista, Cape Town

The Correctional Officer 

The role of a Correctional Officer

The main tasks of a Correctional Officer include:

  • Receiving and securing prisoners until their release
  • Transporting or moving prisoners
  • Supervising prisoners and maintaining security, rules, regulations and cleanliness in correctional facilities
  • Ensuring correct treatment and training of inmates
  • Preparing prisoners for their release and integration into the community
  • Relevant administrative work

These tasks can be performed in a prison, an administrative office, a prison workshop or farm, or in a prison hospital.

Because of the need for 24-hour supervision of inmates, Correctional Officers generally work on a shift basis, and should expect to work also over weekends and on holidays.

Some of the specific requirements for the job include:

  • A South African citizen, between the ages of 18 – 35
  • A minimum of 1,67 m tall for men and 1,60 m for women
  • Medical fitness, with no mental or physical handicaps
  • Ability to speak English and at least one other language

In addition, Correctional Officers should be able to work well under stressful conditions and should have the desire to work with and help others.

Educational requirements and opportunities for Correctional Officers

Correctional officers normally have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, such as the FET Certificate in Corrections Services, plus some vocational training in this specialized field or in law enforcement. Additionally, the institution may require ongoing training related to new challenges and responses related to safe maintenance of prisoner custody. 

Basic training is offered at the Department of Correctional Services’ two training colleges at Kroonstad and Zonderwater near Cullinan, before members are transferred to one of the facilities in the country. Placement is based on departmental needs and personal preference where possible.

Career development: In-service training is offered to members and they are also encouraged to improve their qualifications. Interest-free loans and study leave are available. Study bursaries are also awarded annually for part-time and full-time study in Correctional Services Management and Policing. 

What does a Correctional Officer earn?

Salaries will vary according to years of experience, the amount of overtime worked and bonuses that may be due.

As an indicator, a Correctional Officer with 1- 4 years of experience earns an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of R155,000 per year. Those with more years of experience can earn over R300,000 per year.

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) Learnership Programme

What is a DCS learnership?

A learnership is a work-based learning programme, combining an academic qualification with work experience. Learnerships are directly related to an occupation or field of work. They are managed by Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

The DCS Learnership is for the field of work of correctional services and will lead to an FET Certificate in Corrections Services. This is an nationally recognised NQF Level 4 qualification from the Safety and Security SETA (SASSETA).

The Department of Correctional Services views its learnership programme not only as a vehicle for youth empowerment but also for capacitation of the Department at entry level, especially to the position of Correctional Officer.

It does not, however, guarantee permanent employment after completion of the program, as this would depend on whether there were Corrections Services vacancies.

What is covered by the learnership?

The Learnership programme extends over a period of one year. It has two parts: 30% of the time is given to theory and 70% to practical workplace training. There are three parties involved in a Learnership: the learner, the company and a service provider


The theoretical section takes place at one of the DCS accredited colleges. It is an obligatory full-time study period and learners must be accommodated at the College. DCS will pay for  accommodation, meals, training material and uniform (field wear).

The course will include firearm, physical and self-defence training.

Workplace training

70% of the time will be allocated to on-the-job training at one of the DCS correctional or social centres.

During this time, learners will be paid a stipend, which is an allowance that the learner should use to pay for his/her own accommodation, meals and transport.

What is not covered by the DCS Learnership?

For applicants who were not employed by the DCS before the Learnership (Section 18(2) applicants), DCS will not pay any pension fund, housing allowances, housing subsidy, danger allowance, medical aid or overtime during the theoretical as well as during the practical training phases. 

These are benefits that apply to full-time employees only, and will continue to apply for learners who were employed by the DCS before they also registered to be on the Learnership programme (Section 18 (1) applicants).

Completing the Programme

In order to be considered competent, the learner must complete the following:

  • The instructional theoretical phase
  • The workplace learning phase
  • A Portfolio of Evidence (POE)
  • Verification by the Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA)

It is noted that this is an outcomes-based programme. This means that learners will be evaluated on all work completed for the duration of the programme, and not just on a final examination.

After successful completion of the learnership, learners will receive an FET Certificate in Corrections Services: NQF Level 4 from the Safety and Security Seta (SASSETA). 

The Learnership Agreement

There are three parties that sign the Learnership Agreement, that is the legally binding agreement between them and specifies the requirements for completing the programme:

  • The learner is responsible for completing the programme, by working for the employer and attending the prescribed training
  • The training provider is responsible for teaching the knowledge and theory component. Training providers can be private or public TVET colleges and they offer their training in a classroom type environment. They may also be involved in practical skills training, eg in laboratories or workshops
  • The employer is responsible for employing the learner for the prescribed period, providing the practical working experience, and releasing the learner for the training and education periods. The employer must sign an employment contract with learners who were unemployed when they entered the learnership (the 18(2) learners)

The Learnership Agreement must be registered with the relevant SETA – in this case, the SASSETA.

Any contravention or deviation from the learnership agreement during the twelve months period will be dealt with by the DCS in accordance with Sections 17 and 18 of the Skills Development Act, 97 of 1998.

In essence, this means that the conditions of employment contained in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act will be applied to learners – this includes how they may be dismissed for inappropriate behaviour or failure to abide by the terms of the Learnership Agreement.

The Contract of Employment

Section 18 of the Skills Development Act determines that: 

(1) If a learner was in the employment of the employer party to the Iearnership agreement when the agreement was concluded, the learner’s contract of employment is not affected by the learnership agreement. 

(2)If the learner was not in the employment of the employer party to the learnership agreement when the agreement was concluded, the employer and learner must enter into a contract of employment.

The contract of employment specified in (2) above should, at minimum, end when the learnership agreement ends.

What Happens After the Completion of the Learnership?

Some learners may be offered employment within the DCS, depending on whether Correctional Services jobs are available. Those learners who were previously employed by the DCS either will be offered positions as Correctional Officers or will go back to their previous positions. Having the FET qualification will enhance their chances for career progression.

Even those who are not offered Correctional Services posts have a number of benefits:

  • They will have a formal qualification which is nationally recognised and which is portable to other areas (eg policing, security industry, etc).
  • Having had work experience makes it easier to find work elsewhere. Employers are reluctant to employ those with no experience.
  • They will have higher levels of competence, which also makes them more marketable.
  • They will have a better chance of succeeding in self-employment in a small business.

Applying for a DCS Learnership

Eligibility: Who can apply for a DCS Learnership?

Applicant for Learnerships are typically young adults or college/University graduates wishing to gain practical working experience and access to a particular type of working environment. 

The Department of Correctional Services Learnerships have the following requirements:

General requirements

  • South African citizens
  • Aged between 18 and 35 years 
  • Having strong character
  • Law-abiding citizens, without criminal records (particulars of any pending criminal cases must be provided in the application form)
  • Prepared to subject themselves to selection processes conducted by DCS
  • Prepared to subject themselves to physical training and firearms training conducted by DCS
  • Prepared to disclose information and allow DCS to verify their submitted qualifications and citizenship

Academic requirements

Applicants must already have a qualification at NQF Level 4. This can be one of the following:

  • A Grade 12/Standard 10 certificate
  • National Certificate in Vocational Studies (NQF Level 4)
  • Any other Further Education and Training Certificate, NQF Level 4

Applicants with qualifications in Correctional Services Management or Penology must attach their certified copies of these qualifications.

Eligibility for DCS employees

Learnerships are open both to DCS employees (18(1) learners) and unemployed applicants (18(2) learners).

Those who are already employed by the DCS should check with their HR representatives regarding the process to be followed to apply for a Learnership with DCS. These employed learners will continue to earn their salaries during the learnership and will not be paid the stipend.

Conditions for those who already have additional qualifications

Applicants with further or additional qualifications (eg more than one qualification at NQF Level 4, or qualifications higher than Level 4) will be given preference for selection, but there will be no difference in the stipend paid for the duration of the learnership, or for any future salary should the individual be employed by the Department after completion of the Learnership. 

Documents required for applications

Applicants must supply copies of the following documents. 

  • Application form (Form Z83), completed in own handwriting and signed by the applicant
  • Copy of Identity Document
  • Copy of matric certificate or equivalent
  • Proof of residence (an affidavit from the owner of the property if the applicant is not the owner)

Special notes:

  • All documents must be certified, with the certification being less than three months old. 
  • It is important to check that the date of certification written on the document and  the date stamp are the same.
  • Photocopies of completed forms will not be accepted.
  • Applications must be delivered by hand or posted to the relevant DCS Regional Office
  • Faxed and emailed forms will not be accepted.
  • Late, incomplete or unsigned forms will not be accepted.

How to Apply for The DCS Learnership?

Get an application form from any Corrections Department office or download from the DCS website Look for the Opportunities tab and find Forms (forms are only available when applications are open).

Complete all sections of the application form, in your own handwriting and using a black pen. Remember to sign it.

It is important to select the learnership post that you are applying for – this is the correctional centre where you want to work. It is a good idea to select a centre close to your home so that you do not have to spend too much of your stipend on travelling and accommodation.

The lists of learnership posts and the addresses for submission are given at the end of this article.

How to apply for a Learnership if you are already employed by DCS

  • Contact your employer through the Human Resources Department or contact the trade union official for more information
  • Speak to your supervisor responsible for your appraisal process 
  • If you see an advertisement for application to a Learnership (e.g. in a newspaper), submit your application to the relevant person indicated in the advertisement
  • Sign the SASSETA Application for Admission to Learnerships that will be provided to you by the employer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will I know whether my application has been successful?

The DCS will respond only to applicants that are on their shortlist and afterward only to those who were successful. It does not communicate with anyone else. If you have not heard from DCS after 3 months, it means that your application was unsuccessful

Do I have to pay for registration if my Learnership application is successful?

No. The application form is free and no registration fees are payable at any time. 

DCS has issued a warning that scamsters have in the past contacted applicants to say that they have been successful but must deposit an admin fee of R150 before they receive official notification.

Report any form of corruption to the Departmental Investigation Unit Hotline 0800 701 701 or use fax number (012) 323 7901.

Does the DCS Learnership have an age limit?

Applicants for DCS Learnerships must be between 18 and 35 years old.

What is a stipend in a Learnership?

A stipend is an allowance to cover accommodation, food and travel. It is not a salary.

South Africa’s legislation sets a minimum level.  Employers choose the final amount or maximum. They can claim back tax allowances for every learnership that they support.

How much is the stipend for the DCS Learnership?

The stipend for the DCS Corrections Learnership for 2020/21 is R5,000 per month.

What will happen if I do not complete the programme?

Learners who do not complete all parts of the theoretical and practical training will not earn the qualification. In addition, they may be dismissed by the employer before the end of the 12-month period.

What is a Portfolio if Evidence (POE)?

A POE is a set of documentation and other material that proves that the learner has met or surpassed the requirements of the programme. It may be made up of 

  • Direct evidence (workbooks, direct observation of tasks and activities, oral or written answers to questions, evaluation of products or output)
  • Indirect evidence (testimony from colleagues and supervisors, work completed previously, training records, customer ratings)
  • Historical evidence (previously completed products and portfolios, performance appraisals, certificates and qualifications, medals, prizes and testimonials)

The POE helps learners justify why they deserve to be awarded the qualification. They should begin creating, collecting and organising these documents from the first day.

What is a SETA?

The Sectoral Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are established in terms of the Skills Development Act, 1998 (SDA). The SETAs cater for businesses and industries within a particular sector of the economy.

There are currently 21 SETAs in South Africa, each responsible for managing and creating learnerships, internships, unit-based skills programmes, and apprenticeships within its specific sector of operation. They are intended to equip learners and potential employees with the necessary skills to empower them to obtain employment and earn a sustainable living.

What is an NQF Level 4 qualification?

The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is a national guideline to integrate education and training and to allocate a value of one qualification against another. All education and training in South Africa fits within this framework.

It is managed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), and ensures that the same standards are applied by training and education providers throughout the country.

There are ten levels on the framework, divided into three bands:

  • Levels 1 to 4 equate to high school grades 9 to 12 or vocational training
  • Levels 5 to 6 are higher certificates and college diplomas, generally for technical qualifications
  • Levels 7 to 10 are advanced diplomas and university degrees

A Level 4 qualification is either Grade 12 or a National Vocational Certificate.  

How many credits are there in the FET Corrections Services Level 4 qualification?

All qualifications registered on the NQF framework earn a certain number of credits. Credits are allocated to each part or unit of the training, and then added together for a full qualification. Sometimes credits for one qualification can be added to credits for another qualification. 

The qualification for the DCS Learnership earns 130 credits.

Are there other qualifications after the FET qualification in Corrections Services?

All qualifications achieved by South Africans are recorded on a central database. They are nationally recognised and transportable. This means that a qualification is recognised and can be used as the basis for further education and training if desired. A person with a qualification on one level can then move on to studies at the next level, and even on to University. This means that learners from poor early educational backgrounds can progress through hard work and effort.  

The FET Certificate in Corrections Services (NQF Level 4) is the first in the progressive development of Corrections Officials in Correctional Services. The next step is the National Diploma in Corrections Science (NQF Level 5) and then the National Diploma in Correctional Services Management (at NQF Level 6). 

University qualifications in the Correctional Services field include the BTech and MTech and the BA in Correctional Services Management.

Can people with disabilities apply for the DCS Learnership?

A disability is defined as a long-term impairment that has lasted or is likely to persist for at least 12 months, which is recurring and substantially limiting. 

Because of the demanding nature of the Correctional Services job, physical or mental handicaps may not be accommodated.

What’s the difference between an internship and a learnership?

Internships are designed to give graduates from Universities some practical working experience in the field in which they have studied. There will generally be a salary, albeit quite low. The length of time of the internship depends on the industry. For example, medical graduates spend a year working in a hospital.

Learnerships provide both working experience and a formal qualification related to a particular occupation and field of work. The programmes are managed by Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), but are run by the companies themselves or by external education and training providers.

Sometimes graduates elect to join learnerships to gain experience and a qualification in a specific field, and to improve their employment chances.

When are the opening and closing dates for applications for 2021?

Closing date: 17 September 2020

DCS Contact Details for Applications

Application forms should indicate the choice of learnership post and be submitted to the Regional Office for that post. They can be hand delivered or sent by post. Faxed or emailed forms will not be accepted.

For example, if you wish to apply for the St Albans Correctional Centre post, you will indicate it like this: 

DCS Corrections Services Learnership, Eastern Cape Region, St Albans (Ref E01/year)

Note: The following list refers to the year 2019. For each year the reference number will remain the same, but the year will change – eg Ref E01/2021

ReferencesPostal addressPhysical addressContact Person
St Albans (Ref: E01/2019) Amathole (Ref: E02/2019) Kirkwood (Ref: E03/2019) East London (Ref: E04/2019) Sada (Ref: E05/2019) Cradock (Ref: E06/2019) Mthatha (Ref: E07/2019)Regional Commissioner: Eastern Cape Recruitment Section Private Bag X9013 East London 5200Block E Ocean Terrace Moore Street Quigney East London 5200Mr R Modimowagae:  (043) 706 8784
Groenpunt (Ref: E08/2019) Grootvlei (Ref: E09/2019) Colesberg (Ref: E10/2019) Kimberley (Ref: E11/2019) Upington (Ref: E12/2019) Goedemoed (Ref: E13/2019) Bizzah Makhate (Ref: E14/2019)Regional Commissioner: Free State and Northern Cape Recruitment Section Private Bag X20530 Bloemfontein 9300103 Zastron Street Agrimed Building Bloemfontein 9300Mr M Kosana:  (051) 404 0277
Leeuwkop (Ref: E15/2019) Kgoṧi Mampuru II (Ref: E16/2019) Baviaanspoort (Ref: E17/2019) Zonderwater (Ref: E18/2019) Johannesburg (Ref: E19/2019) Boksburg (Ref: E20/2019) Modderbee (Ref: E21/2019) Krugersdorp (Ref: E22/2019)Regional Commissioner: Gauteng Recruitment Section Private Bag X393 Pretoria 0001
4 Ketjen Street Pretoria West (Kgoṧi Mampuru II Training Centre)
Ms Sibongile Mkuzangwe:  (012) 420 0146
Durban (Ref: E23/2019) Kokstad (Ref: E24/2019) Pietermaritzburg (Ref: E25/2019) Ncome (Ref: E26/2019) Empangeni (Ref: E27/2019) Glencoe (Ref: E28/2019) Waterval (Ref: E29/2019)Regional Commissioner: Kwazulu Natal Recruitment Section Private Bag X9126 Pietermaritzburg 3200
1 Eugene Marais Road Napierville Pietermaritburg 3200
Ms Rajashree Moodley:  (033) 355 7359
Polokwane (Ref: E30/2019) Barberton (Ref: E31/2019) Bethal (Ref: E32/2019) Klerksdorp (Ref: E33/2019) Rooigrond (Ref: E34/2019) Rustenburg (Ref: E35/2019) Thohoyandou (Ref: E36/2019) Witbank (Ref: E37/2019)Regional Commissioner Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West Recruitment Section Private Bag X142 Pretoria 0001
Johannes Ramokhoase and Paul Kruger Street 198 Masada Building 9th Floor Pretoria 0001
Mr Eddie Nhlengethwa:  (012) 306 2025
Drakenstein (Ref: E38/2019) Allandale (Ref: E39/2019) Brandvlei (Ref: E40/2019) Pollsmoor (Ref: E41/2019) Goodwood (Ref: E42/2019) Southern Cape (Ref: E43/2019) West Coast (Ref: E44/2019) Voorberg (Ref: E45/2019) Overberg (Ref: E46/2019) Breede River (Ref: E47/2019)Regional Commissioner: Western Cape, Recruitment Section, Private Bag X1, Edgemead, 7407
Breede River Street Monte Vista
Ms Fezile Ngcanga:  (021) 550 6078