South Africa’s move towards a green economy will need creative and innovative leaders to tackle the complex social and ecological issues and risks facing us today.
Yet, graduate unemployment in South Africa grows at an unprecedented rate each year. New graduates – many with honours and master’s degrees – struggle to find decent jobs, while employers cite a lack of foundational workplace skills.
Internships are a proven way to help new graduates find their footing in the workplace where they can make a contribution in a real work environment and build skills for their future careers. As they develop skills, learn and gain experience, their employability increases which improves their chances of landing a job.
WWF’s Graduate Internship Programme, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, provides this bridge for new graduates through a structured work-based learning programme which exposes interns to a range of developmental activities and networking opportunities.
As a result of the WWF’s Graduate Internship Programme, more than 100 young leaders now find themselves in strategic jobs supporting South Africa’s journey to sustainability.
Since 2011, the programme has placed 128 interns – of which 73% were women and 83% black. The programme has also contributed towards job creation: 47 jobs offered to interns after the completion of their placements were in newly created or growth positions.
WWF interns earn a competitive salary which means they can focus on the many learning opportunities without being distracted by an ongoing job search and concerns for their own and sometimes also their families’ livelihoods.
Over the years World Wildlife Fund has worked with a number of partners to support the development of young environmental leaders – and would like to see more partners coming on board. From funding to hosting, partnerships are varied and offer opportunity for further expanding the value of internships.
Examples of successful partnerships include the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) which co-ordinated the placement of 13 interns to develop critical biodiversity research and planning skills in 2017. Another is the South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) which is working with WWF to co-ordinate an industry-focused programme that will fund and place 10 marine scientists in their associate industries in 2019.
WWF is also keen on conceptual or strategic partnerships, such as the presidential Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative which is a more recent example of political and strategic support for expanding work-based learning placements and internships.
These internships not only match job opportunities that address complex issues but they also help build the necessary green skills for a sustainable future.
In some examples Law graduates find new ways to ensure that environmental rights are not violated. Urban planners look for fresh ideas to design cities for low carbon transport. And economists learn to better value natural resources and determine the costs and impacts of environmental neglect.
Glenda Raven, senior manager of the award-winning Environmental Leaders Programme*, comments: “Our interns are able to make a difference by helping to secure our ecological assets and ensuring the livelihoods and wellbeing of our people as they contribute to a green economy. We are keen to work with new partners on this exciting programme which is clearly paying dividends in human capital.”
*The Mail & Guardian named WWF’s Environmental Leaders Programme as the winner of its Youth Leadership category in its recent Greening Awards (September 2018).
Applications for the next intake of interns close on 9 November 2018.