Thursday 14 April 2016

Eduloan Graduate Internship Programme

There is no shortage of challenges facing recent graduates in South Africa, due to prevailing socioeconomic conditions. Our country is going through a difficult phase in its development, with particular problems that we need to solve in order to move through this and build a successful economy and society.

The twin enemies – poverty and unemployment

Two of the most pressing concerns for the country as a whole are poverty and unemployment.

Statistics SA published a report in 2014, showing that around 20% of our population lives in extreme poverty, with 45% living in moderate poverty. That’s almost half the people in the country, so it’s very clear to see how hugely important it is to address this issue. Allied to this is the unemployment rate, which is currently at around 25%.

In order to sustain a healthy economy it is imperative that we maintain a certain growth rate, which is dependent on people having jobs and gross domestic product, both of which are severely hampered by unemployment. At the moment our growth rate is below what it should be, making it even more important for us to solve these twin problems.

In short, it is critical that we concentrate all our efforts on alleviating poverty, making people more employable and creating more job opportunities.

Of course the key to everything is education – which is where Eduloan comes in.

The big challenges for graduates

Graduates are particularly vulnerable to unemployment - the unemployment rate among young people reaches as high as 51%. This is not good news for graduates, who are hard hit by the lack of job opportunities when they leave university or college. They also find themselves in a situation where they only have the skills and knowledge they gained while studying – they don’t have the additional skills that are required in the workplace.

The other big stumbling block that graduates face is the fact that companies prefer to employ people with experience. A graduate obviously has no experience, so it becomes a catch-22 situation: graduates need experience to get jobs, but they can only get experience by finding jobs in the first place.

Shining a light of hope and opportunity

Through working so closely with students, we have come to realise that we can help with the situation that graduates face. One of the best ways for them to overcome their challenges is through graduate assistance programmes that help them to acquire the additional skills that they need in the job market.

For this reason we participate in graduate recruitment programmes where we take in tertiary graduates for an internship that lasts for a period of 3 to 12 months. We place particular emphasis on reaching disadvantaged individuals and communities.

Over the past 3 years, we have recruited and trained an average of 10 graduates annually, through SETA-funded learnership programmes.

The aim is twofold: to expose graduates to a range of options for pursuing their career paths, and to give them work experience that is also enjoyable. In this way we help to nurture their talent.

Our ultimate hope is that by helping to make more people employable, we will be able to play our role in curbing unemployment and alleviating poverty in our country.

How the programme works

Every year Eduloan, in partnership with BankSETA, opens its doors to selected unemployed graduates, who are offered a year-long certification in a predetermined course, while gaining work experience and receiving a monthly stipend. These learners are hand-picked from hundreds of applications – based on values alignment, and their commitment, energy and zeal.

We first take the successful graduates through an onboarding process to acclimatise them to the workplace. On their first day of their internship with a company we hold an ice-breaking breakfast. Here the graduate programme manager gives them a snapshot view of the organisation’s history, and its current situation and direction. The interns then take part in a scavenger hunt, designed to help them get to know the office, the people in it and what they do.

From then on they are mentored and guided into the work environment, learning skills and gaining experience as they progress through the programme. The big emphasis is on the transfer of skills and expertise.

The programme is monitored and quality assured. Each year we reflect on it and re-engineer it for optimum effectiveness for all stakeholders.

What is expected of interns on the programme

Once a graduate is accepted and embarks on an internship, there are certain responsibilities that they need to meet:

Perform work for the employer that is relevant to the specific qualification.

Be available for and participate in all learning and work experience required by the programme.

Comply with all workplace policies and procedures.

Complete any timesheets or written assessment tools supplied by the employer to record relevant workplace experience.

Attend all study periods and theoretical learning sessions with the training provider and undertake all learning conscientiously.

Programme success

We’ve achieved a number of successes with our internship programme.

Most fundamentally, we have levelled the playing field by introducing high-potential individuals who thus far have had limited cultural exposure to the unwritten norms and expectations of the corporate or professional market. These are soft skills that usually form a critical barrier for people trying to secure and retain employment.

Our interns have achieved a more than 90% competence rate on the learnership courses, with an average of 60% finding employment after completing the programme.

Learner supervision develops leadership, while the employer receives a cost-effective workforce with regard to entry level functions and positions. It also allows for more cost-effective strategic project implementation.

As a result, this programme enables us to further unlock potential in the youth, while making a significant contribution towards the national job creation effort.

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