In 1994, the new democratic government responded positively to the demands by the trade union movement for a commitment to Trade Union Education under the control of the trade union movement. The government created a special dedicated fund for this purpose, and supported the formation of DITSELA as an institute that will help build labour capacity to:
- Strengthen worker participation in workplace, industrial and political democracy
- Strengthen workers intellectual and organising capacity
- Build and strengthen a strong vibrant labour movement in SA
- Promote the role and importance of workers education
DITSELA is supported by the Strengthening Civil Society Fund which is administered by the Department of Labour. On the 29 November 1996, DITSELA was officially launched by the participating Federations and the Ministry of Labour, at the Workers Library and Museum.
DITSELA started formally operating in January 1997 and the DITSELA Western Cape was established in October 2000, when it merged with the Western Cape Workers College. Over the years, DITSELA has grown to become the leading provider of education, training and support services to the trade union movement in South Africa. Its reputation as a labour institute has also grown beyond the borders of South Africa.