In the media
Learnerships and Internships04 August 2017
South Africa is facing a crisis. Unemployment is steadily rising and our scarce skills are consistently emigrating. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting poor. Every year, thousands of youth matriculate and thousands more graduate. We have highly energetic, passionate young people leaving their places of education and the reality is, they have nowhere to go.
AfroCentric Health has seen the need for employing these young people. We believe in investing in the future of our country, not only to satiate our conscience towards corporate social responsibility, but also to live our value of making a positive difference. To assist the youth in their employment journey, we have sought out ways of contributing to uplifting the skills in the country. South Africa is our home, our birthplace and we want to see it grow and flourish. Guiding and nurturing these young people with such high potential is one way in which we are doing this.
The learnerships and internships we have implemented in our various branches started in 2014 with just a handful of delegates. We have since employed at least 75% of these and successfully completed eight programs. I decided to include in this article some real success stories. The young people who participated in my short interview range from finishing high school, taking a gap year from studying, applying for short term courses to add value to their future studies and awaiting responses from applications from various colleges. One participant stated: “I was looking for a way to start my life” and this, for me, captures the excitement, the endless possibilities and the eagerness to see what the future has in store for our next generation of leaders.
I asked the participants what went through their minds when they heard about the opportunity afforded to them through this program. They all revealed a sense of insecurity around how they would be received, a deep desire to be accepted and to do well in the course work. They realised that hard work and commitment would be a standard requirement and that they would need to adapt to the corporate environment. Despite their misgivings and fear of the unknown, these young people showed true grit and jumped in with both feet. I loved the fact that even though they did not know what exactly the year ahead would hold, they wanted to take the risk and as one participant shared he saw this as “an opportunity to play a small part in helping people in need”. Another delegate shared that she hoped this would be a platform to give her direction for her future studies. I like to think that the opportunity afforded through learnership and internship programs gives direction for the rest of a person’s life, not just in their professional career but also in their personal development. If we want to see a change for the better, we need to shape, guide and inspire these young minds.
Most of the participants shared that they felt extremely nervous on their first few days in the organisation, mixed with a sense of excitement for the opportunities that lay ahead. I was truly amazed at how this organisation lives its values of integrity and mutual respect. Regardless of youth and inexperience being at their “disadvantage”, each person felt valued, respected and welcomed into the organisation. To quote one participant: “This was my first exposure to the corporate environment and my expectations had to be adjusted as immediately I was welcomed with open arms by everyone I interacted with. It instilled me with a sense of belonging which enabled me to find my footing quicker as I had the freedom to ask for assistance whenever it was required from my colleagues.” This speaks volumes in the dog- eat- dog world we are used to living in and certainly instils hope in me for a better future.
I asked the participants what they felt they had personally gained after completing their program at AfroCentric Health. There is no doubt in my mind of the benefits these programs produce and I have included below a few of the phrases they used:
“I have grown more mature in this time”
“I have learnt to operate more professionally”
“I have gained so much knowledge.”
“I have definitely learnt to take ownership of my work and understand that what I do has an effect on the rest of my colleagues.”
“I have learnt there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it, and even the smallest of contributions we make can have a massive impact to other people’s lives.”
“I have gained a lot! I really thank AfroCentric Health for the opportunity given to me.
“I have learnt a lot”
“I have gained positive behaviour and belief in myself”
“I have gained more confidence, courage and responsibility.”
“It has helped me grow as a person and I now have a better outlook on life”
I asked the participants for advice they want to share. If you, the reader, are a young person, soon to be graduating from high school, college or university, do not be afraid to consider applying for a learnership or internship program. There may be a negative stigma from your peers or teachers, but do not listen to the naysayers, do not pay attention to the pessimists. These programs are great opportunities to prove your worth, to gain experience and to find direction in your life. It takes persistent hard work, the willingness to learn, and taking ownership of your work and yourself, but the willingness to learn can only breed success. As the one participant stated, “When we are given opportunities in life we ought to grab them with both hands and make them count.” Another participant said, “I can truly say that AfroCentric Health is one of the best environments I know and I can say that I am happy with the choice I have made within this company, there are many opportunities for growth. My advice for any young person that has the opportunity to do this learnership – take it!”
This hope and anticipation provided to a seemingly hopeless situation is worth investing in. When an unemployed high school leaver says the following: “Joining AfroCentric Health has exposed me to a variety of job functions in a short time and through this I can only envisage a successful career ahead” I am definitely motivated to encourage the investment in learnership and internship programs in the corporate world. I was excited to find out that the majority of the Interns were employed after their training, either within our organisation or outside in their field of study. Many of the learnership delegates were employed for a further 4 months in the organisation to assist them in finding permanent employment. I am inspired by the comments I received such as:
“I look forward to continuously expanding my knowledge and gaining as much experience as possible. I know that if I put in the effort, then the sky is the limit.”
“With the knowledge I have gained I can definitely see that law can be incorporated into the health sector. Which is why I intend to complete my LLB degree in the coming years and merge the knowledge of two important industries in any country. I see myself being at AfroCentric Health for several years to come, growing along the way and contributing all the way.”
“I believe I will come back soon and work for AfroCentric Health once I have finished my studies”
“My perspective on the future is to work hard and study further on a part time basis. There are lots of opportunities within AfroCentric Health, hopefully by studying further I would be able to progress to bigger, better positions within the company”.
At AfroCentric Health, we strive to deliver with excellence and the programs we offer are no exception. The delegates who applied for permanent positions in the organisation went through the same rigorous interview process as any external candidate. We believe that enduring a difficult interview is a reflection of character and builds confidence in a person’s true capability. Young age, inexperience or lack of skills are not excuses for not finding permanent employment. We interview to see the potential you hold and how you intend on tapping into that to be the best you can be. We want to see what you will give back to the organisation, and then the country as a whole. The interns and learners had no special treatment so they could learn from the experiences of the real world. We encouraged them to apply for jobs outside of their comfort zones so they could spread their wings, and learn to fly. Based on the feedback given above, they have not only learnt to fly, but how to soar above what even they believed was possible.
I started this article with the crisis of unemployment and the state of our nation. As a nation, we need to come together, to work in unity towards a more positive future for the sake of our children. This healing starts from within; within a person, within a family, within a team, within an organisation. It needs to be taken seriously, to be invested in, to be nurtured and fostered. I believe that through the programs offered by Internships and Learnerships, AfroCentric Health is helping South Africa face the crisis by investing in our future leaders.
Training Facilitator at AfroCentric Health