The Presidential Youth Employment Initiative is one such venture. It has given people like Michaela Alexander from Delft an opportunity to gain the skills and experience to launch a successful career.
The 25-year-old, who has a Bachelor of Honours in Development Studies from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), is currently a research intern at the Faculty of Education.
“I want to gain formal and practical work experience,” she said confidently. “In terms of my career path, I hope to work in government or with an organisation that tackles social issues.”
Another youngster hoping to make the most of his internship opportunity at UWC is Risenga Hlungwani, 22. This UWC alumnus joined the Department of Institutional Advancement’s media, marketing and communications team. The stars aligned perfectly for Hlungwani because “the career path I am exploring is within the media space”.
He added: “I’ve always been keen and passionate about developing my skills and knowledge in this field.”
Alexander and Hlungwani are part of an 86-strong group of interns employed at various UWC faculties and departments this year. Each intern will be paid while training on the job.
Human Resources Director, Elvida Sias, explained that the programme aimed to support graduates’ entry into the world of work.
“With the excessive unemployment rate, this is a short-term relief to support employability. They have the opportunity to add to their CV, and the possibility of opportunities opening up after completing this programme. And it gives us a pool of talent to consider when we do have vacancies.”
Maresce Geduld-Jeftha, UWC’s Director: Rewards, Benefits and Payroll, said the internship programmes provide workplace learning and the development of practical skills and interpersonal relationships.
“The launch of the Presidential Youth Employment Scheme (PYES) brings a fantastic opportunity to UWC in changing perceptions of Higher Education Institutions as places of theoretical learning and research only. Our UWC motto, ‘From Hope to Action Through Knowledge’, is brought to life through the 86 interns who are here to grow and develop their practical experience in a robust working environment. It’s all very exciting!”
Professor Anesh Singh, the Director of Institutional Advancement at UWC, said another challenge facing graduates was finding a job, “given their limited practical experience”.
“An internship provides graduates with work-based skills, training and mentorship to address the practical gap to be effective in the world of work. For our University and Institutional Advancement, our interns allow us to train the next generation of UWC employees. The process allows us to develop our graduates to be retained in higher education. The hands-on skills and formal training provide the interns with advanced computer skills, effective communication, managing workplace conflicts, understanding complex work environments, and it provides them with the soft skills to work in teams,” said Prof Singh.
“I believe our interns will enter the workplace better equipped to make a difference wherever they obtain work. Instead of joining an organisation and having to spend months in training, they will be productive from day one.”
Another intern with the media, marketing and communications team, Dylan Wally, said: “I am hoping to learn how the media contributes to campus life and how important it is for the public to engage with UWC via social media. I am really grateful for this opportunity.”
Kenan Levendal, 23, jumped at the opportunity to intern at UWC, where he completed a BA Honours Degree in Industrial Psychology. Levendal is soaking up as much knowledge and experience as he can at the University’s Human Resources Department.
His plans to become an “HR Generalist at first, which would allow me to work in any human resources unit” and later “organisational design and effectiveness, talent management, recruitment and selection, competency profiling, psychometric assessments and HR Information systems”.
Alexander, Hlungwani, Wally, Levendal and their 82 teammates have a similar message for the youth of South Africa: keep your dreams big and aspirations high.
All images by Ruvan Boshoff/UWC Media. See gallery below for more images...