By Tebogo Masekwameng
According to a Daily Maverick article titled “Youth are starved of opportunities” by Michelle Banda, a major driver of youth unemployment is higher education and training. The gap that lies between youth and employment is experience and practical skills.
I am Tebogo Masekwameng, a UCT Finance and Accounting final year student who has been blessed with the opportunity to intern at Mahlako. On my first day of interning, I experienced the gap the article identified. The theoretical knowledge I gained from Africa’s top university gave me the ability to understand the foundation of the skills that were required in my internship such as financial modelling. However, had I been asked to create a financial model for a project on my first day, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I would attribute this challenge to a lack of industry knowledge, no practical experience in creating a model or financial analysis and a lack of confidence.
I have identified that this lack of experience can either result in an internship where the company gives you work that you can handle, which doesn’t upskill you or it could result in the company having to invest time and money in training programs and workshops to upskill you so that you can perform the challenging work with guidance from colleagues.
My internship at Mahlako has been a mixture of both. My training program includes a lot of reading about the renewable energy industry, project finance and some PowerPoint presentations about the firm. Each reading assisted me in understanding concepts discussed in meetings and improved my analysis and understanding of each project discussed. This has been an active form of learning which cemented my theoretical knowledge and increased my confidence. This process required a lot of patience from my mentors, which they possess, as I would come with questions, debate with them on topics I wish to gain more understanding on and ask for more resources whilst they have deadlines to meet. In addition to this exciting work, I performed tasks like editing PowerPoints and proof-reading contracts which weren’t as challenging but are necessary.
My interning experience has assisted me in aligning my skills and character with my vision for my future. It has improved the strength of my mindset to overcome the anxiety of failing when faced with the new challenges and most importantly it has reduced my chances of being part of the 32.6% of unemployed youth graduates. My suggestion to the unemployed youth is to knock on the doors of companies and offer your hands, ask many questions and practice the theory you have learnt. My solution for our country is for higher education facilities to partner with locally founded companies and create internship programs which bring in the practical component of theory while introducing the knowledge and skills that companies in the industry require employees to have.