Close to 2 000 young graduates have already registered on the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s new database in an effort to access job opportunities. Mayor Athol Trollip has spoken in four packed community halls since February 13 to promote it.
The meetings were in Uitenhage, Missionvale, Gelvandale and Motherwell.
At the meetings, Trollip promised to approach the city’s top 50 companies to create internship opportunities and offer job experience.
However, some industry leaders have questioned whether the proposed internships would prove valuable for graduates in the long run, while others praised it.
Propella Incubator business manager Anita Palmer said internships were invaluable if structured correctly.
“The right mentor in the right environment will allow a graduate to flourish, while the opposite would be true for graduates who find themselves in an environment that has employed them for the wrong reasons.
“Unless the internship comes with a promise of future employment or absorption into the company, it doesn’t inspire the young person much.”
She said some graduates simply moved from one internship to the next.
“While this does build work experience, it deflates the intern’s morale – especially as they are usually not remunerated at market rates and so still battle with the burden of unpaid student loans.”
Palmer said the government should play an enabling role to support small and medium businesses in creating opportunities.
“Once the enablers are in place, it becomes a two-way street of government and private sector to find meaningful ways to provide graduates with experience, and for graduates to understand that gaining experience requires hard work, discipline and dedication.”
In his addresses, Trollip emphasised the importance of gaining work experience soon after graduating, even through internships.
“If someone is not employed in a proper job by the age of 30, their chances decline,” Trollip said.
“Your life can change as soon as you get an opportunity, because one opportunity leads to another.”
With 47% of the city’s youth jobless, Trollip believes it is crucial for the municipality and private sector to create the opportunities.
The municipality itself now employs 26 interns.
At least five companies have already shown interest in joining the youth campaign, according to Trollip’s spokesman Sibongile Dimbaza. [immediate plan] is to develop a roadmap of how the engagement process with [other] targeted companies would unfold, [and] proper planning still needs to be carried out.” Dimbaza could not say when this would be concluded, but indicated that the staff at the mayor’s office – which would spearhead the project – hoped to get the ball rolling right away.
“The database will be developed by the office of the mayor in tandem with the Department of Labour and the [municipality’s] skills development sub-directorate.
“We are looking at developing an e-mail address specifically for this programme, to allow those who missed [the] engagements to be able to register on the database.”
Dimbaza said the municipality hoped to approach the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber as well.
“This initiative is geared towards making a substantial dent in the unemployment figure [and] the corporate sector has a meaningful role to play.”
As to whether internships would bridge the gap to the working world, Dimbaza said: “We foresee a multi-pronged approach where companies recognise those who have experiential training and place them according to their area of expertise.”
The Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a company specifically aimed at finding jobs for unemployed youths, praised the municipality for its initiative.
Harambee regional head Masakhana Mlamla said: “Any experience that first-time work seekers with little or no work experience can get – be it through volunteering, internships or learnerships – offers a chance for these young people to make themselves more employable.”
He called unemployment a complex problem with no quick fixes.
“Some work needs to be done on skills development and getting young people ready for work from an early age.
“Better public transport solutions and better sharing of information about opportunities would also go a long way.”
PROFILE: JOB SEEKERS
In the search for gainful employment, internships do not always guarantee a full-time opportunity.
This is the experience of Yolanda Mfazwe, 28, who recently joined thousands of young people in the metro searching for jobs.
Although she has multiple internships under her belt, Mfazwe said she was not expecting much from her job hunt.
Mfazwe, from NU7 in Motherwell, finished her diploma in management assistance at Eastcape Midlands College last year and will graduate this year.
As part of her studies, she completed an internship at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality speaker’s office.
“The contract ended in January, because they extended it past the [usual] 18 months,” Mfazwe said.
As for earning money while she continues her job search, Mfazwe says she relies on her musical talent.
“I’m a vocalist for a group called Trumpets of Glory, and we are hoping to record our first album this year.”
Three years after she graduated with a tourism qualification, Ntombakayi Tose’s diploma is still gathering dust.
Tose, 24, has been applying for jobs since graduating from Port Elizabeth College in 2015, but without any luck.
“I’ve sent three applications for jobs [in my field] just since the beginning of the year,” Tose, from NU7 in Motherwell, said. “So far, I’ve received no responses.” In 2016 she worked for Imali Express for a six-month period, but Tose said she had had no luck before or after that.
She is living with her parents and her brother, 20, who finished matric last year and is also unemployed.
“Only my father is working, though not really, as he just transports children to school.”
As Tose talks, she types an e-mail on her cellphone.
“Even now, I’m e-mailing SPAR, in the hopes of getting a learnership there from March,” she said.
Whether the mayor’s programme would change her situation, Tose could not say.
“Right now I’m just sitting at home. Maybe this will help.”
The municipality and government should be doing more to create jobs in the local tourism industry.
This is according to jobseeker Siphokazi Cwili, who has had no luck finding a position in Port Elizabeth.
Cwili, 23, attended the municipality’s meeting for unemployed graduates in Motherwell earlier this week in hopes of changing her job status.
She has already finished her course for a diploma in travel and tourism from Damelin, with her graduation set for April.
However, she has been trying to get a foothold in the working world since late last year.
“There are no jobs in Port Elizabeth,” the KwaMagxaki resident said.
“The government should provide more jobs, especially in the tourism industry.”
Cwili said she had worked a number of parttime jobs to make ends meet while she was studying.
“I’ve worked part-time as a chef, then I worked in a local guesthouse,” she said.
“Now I’m doing stocktaking at [stores belonging to] the Edcon group.”
Despite being a qualified professional in information technology, Chad Engel is still dependent on part-time jobs more than three years after finishing his studies.
Engel, 24, has been looking for work since finishing his higher certificate in business IT at CTI.
Like many other hopefuls, Engel attended the mayor’s public meeting in Gelvandale earlier this week to throw his hat in the ring for future opportunities.
“I didn’t think it would be so hard to find work in IT,” Engel, who lives in Summerstrand, said.
“I finished studying in 2014 and want to go back to finish my degree next year.”
In the meantime, he has been earning his keep through a series of part-time jobs.
“I work at a DVD rental store and in my spare time I repair computers, do some coding for websites and tutor students from Nelson Mandela University,” he said.
“It’s been hard to find work though. I’ve been dropping off CVs and applying for jobs online, but I don’t hear back.” – Odette Parfitt
If his luck does not change soon, West End resident Marcelle Davies may not be able to graduate from university this year.
After searching for months, Davies, 23, attended the public meeting in Gelvandale earlier this week in hope of finding a training contract with a local civil engineering company.
Davies, who is in his final year of his civil engineering diploma studies at Nelson Mandela University, fears the worst if he does not find work soon.
“In our third year, we have to gain practical workplace experience, with a logbook to tick off certain tasks we’ve completed,” he said.
Without this training, he cannot complete his course.
“I’m worried and I don’t know what to do. At least 10 of my classmates are in the same boat, and others who have graduated already can’t find work either.
“I’ve been applying everywhere since last June, and I was only invited for one interview in January, though I haven’t had any feedback since.”