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Marketing and Selecting Learners

Posted in QMS


There are two distinct parts to securing learners on a course:

1) You need to market or advertise the course or secure learners through your existing networks or through the media.

2) You need to select learners, often from a large number of applicants, to attend the course (especially pertinent when a course is funded) based on a set of selection criteria that learners have to meet in order to be able to take part on the course. These criteria are determined by the qualification itself (for example, if it is an NQF level 2 course, learners need to have at least a Grade 9 GET certificate or have completed ABET 4) as well as funder or your organisational requirements (e.g. if a funder is paying the fees they might specify that the learner must prove how the course will contribute to the learner’s contribution to work in that field or sector...)

There are 4 main scenarios that could face you with regards how a course will be promoted to learners and how you will select the learners.

1. Funded Courses

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You have a donor

A funder such as a company CSI department, government department/ agency, SETA or donor organisation is funding the delivery of a specific accredited course or perhaps delivering an accredited course is part of a bigger funded programme you are working on. Example: DEA YES programme is funding learners in your area to attend the EETDP course.

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2. Request from an Employer

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An Employer Approaches You

You have a request for a course from an employer organisation for its own employees (for example a municipality, NGO, government department, conservation agency, business or company, etc.). Example: a local mining company asks you to provide Environmental Practices Modules to a group of employees.

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3. Promote a course to Employer(s)

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You want to approach employer(s)

You want to promote a course with an employer (organisation/ company/ industry/ government department/ NGO, etc.). Example: you approach a mining company to try have them enroll their environmental supervisors on the Environmental Practices level 5 skills programme.

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4. Promote a course to the public

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You want to approach the public

You want to generally promote a course to individual learners in the general population or particular sector. Example: you advertise in the press and through your networks for a stand alone module of the EETDP course on developing environmental programmes, hoping to attract sufficient learners to make a viable course.

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Funded Courses

There are many different options for how you might market or advertise your accredited course. In the case of funded courses where the funder has not specified who the learners are, you will need to make the appropriate potential learners aware of the course and the availability of bursaries that either fully or partly cover the costs.

If the funder has already, or wants to, specify who the learners are it is advisable to get them to agree to your input into the advertising and selection procedures. Funders often do not have much insight into what potential learners need in order to be successful on the course or may be driven by political or other agendas and often select inappropriate learners who then do not complete the qualification. This ultimately reflects badly on your organisation.

No matter whether you will be partly or fully involved in marketing/advertising the accredited course or full qualification, you are provided with procedures to help you (see the marketing link at top right hand side of this page). When a course is funded and is open to general applications, it is fair to make as many people as possible aware of the opportunity. Use all available means to advertise/market the opportunity but also be careful to clearly specify the requirements and selection criteria to avoid being swamped with inappropriate applications.


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Request from Employer

When an employer approaches you for training for their staff, it is unlikely that you will need to advertise the course as you will have already secured a market for the course. However, if there is a potential to market this course to other organisations or individuals then follow the usual marketing procedures.

When you have been approached by an employer organisation with a request for accredited training, it is highly likely that you will not need to select learners for the course as these will be specified by the employer. However, if it is a large organisation with national spread, you may need to work with the employer to develop a selection procedure – in this case use or adapt the learner selection matrix (see top right hand side of this page).

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Promoting Courses to Employers

When approaching a company or organisation to try and sell an accredited course, it is important that you approach the right people. Your first point of entry will almost always be someone in your network – someone who has attended a past course or participated with you in some project or is on some committee or other structure that you are a member of or perhaps someone you meet at a conference. Use your existing professional networks whenever you can to promote the accredited courses you offer.

There are many organisations that can be targeted for marketing of accredited courses. These include, for example, nature conservation agencies, private nature reserves, tourism operators, National and Provincial departments of environment, agriculture, economic development and so on, municipalities, NGOs, businesses and specific industries or industry stakeholder groups or associations and so on.

Once you have made contact with someone in an organisation, you will also need to ensure that you/they also liaise with the HR department – this is the department that will ultimately make decisions about funding their employees to attend an accredited course. When you are trying to sell a course to a particular organisation, the key is to access the HR Manager/HRD Manager/Skills Development Facilitator or Training Manager. Such a person will know how to access Skills Development Levy (SDL) funding or an internal training budget to pay for accredited training. When developing a marketing and advertising strategy for a particular accredited course that you want to sell, find out who this person(s) are in the organisation, get their contact details and phone, email or visit them to make your pitch. If they cannot access SDL funding because it has already been allocated, give them the qualification/skills programme/short course details and request them to include it in the following year’s Workplace Skills Plan (WSP). This will ensure the funding is available the following year. Keep following up without becoming a nuisance.

You will also need to simultaneously work with the relevant personnel in the department that you hope will take up the training. For example, in a municipality this could be the Waste Management, Parks and Gardens or Environmental Department. You might need to play a mediating role between managers in this department and the HR department.

Once you have successfully sold an accredited course to an employer organisation, it is likely that they will want to select the learners themselves. If they need assistance to develop the selection criteria or ask you to select them then use the learner selection matrix (see link at top) in a collaborative way with the relevant staff.

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Promoting Courses to the Public

Selling accredited courses to individuals in the general population or within a particular sector (such as environment) is the trickiest way to sell accredited courses. It is only worth considering when you are very certain (and have verifiable evidence to back up this belief) that there is a substantial demand for the course. The main reason for this is the cost of the accredited course. Individuals who might take the course are often unemployed and want to do the course in order to become more employable. Random unemployed individuals do not have any access to Skills Development Levy Funding (unless it is through a SETA that has allocated funds towards a learnership or skills programme and has put such a training contract out to tender).

Capturing general enquiries for accredited courses is an important way to build up a database of potential learners. It is important that you develop a system in your office for keeping records or enquiries so that these can be used for notifying of bursaries or advertising courses in future.

When selecting learners who apply for a course, there are two main criteria: Do they meet the qualification entry requirements? Can they pay for the course?

Of course from an ethical point of view it is important to provide some sort of advisory role to the applicant. For example, a learner might apply to do the Environmental Practices Skills Programme but after chatting to them and gaining an insight to their career aspirations, you might advise them to rather do a Nature Conservation Diploma through UNISA.

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