University of the Western Cape (South Africa) SDS internship programme empowers graduates

With South Africa’s graduate unemployment rate at frightening levels, the job market is increasingly becoming more competitive. Young people need more than just a qualification to stand a better chance of landing their first job.

It was in this vein that the Division of Student Development and Support (SDS) at UWC, under Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Dube, launched the Graduate Competency Development Programme (GCDP) in 2021 – to enhance workplace readiness for recent UWC graduates.

The GCDP is facilitated by the Office for Student Development (OSD), and after attending a month-long SDS induction, the first eight interns (pursuing different fields of study) were placed across SDS departments for an 18-month period. Each department arranged a project plan and allocated a supervisor for the interns.

In addition to gaining real work experience, the first GCDP Cohort also attended a number of workshops at the Centre for Innovative Education and Communication Technologies (CIECT), including basic video editing, mobile video editing, image editing, digital storytelling, screen recording, compression and conversion.

Midway through the programme, two of the interns landed jobs, and the remaining six were awarded certificates of completion this week.

This is testimony that the programme, which took in its second cohort in April 2022, has given participants opportunities to learn the ropes of the world of work. And those who have completed the programme agree.

BCom graduate Khanya Deliwe believes that 18 months is unusual for an internship, “and if a potential employer sees that you have worked at the same organisation for 18 months, it speaks favourably to your potential as a worker in terms of experience. I have learnt much, and this is going to help me immensely.”

Nozipho Mchunu, who also obtained her BCom degree, echoed his sentiments and said as much as she is nervous about looking for employment again, her job search will be different as the experience has been quite developmental. “I have learnt so many things about how to run an organisation and also about myself. I realised that I have so many abilities that I didn’t know I have. So, it was a great developmental and informative programme.”

That was the purpose of the programme, according to Nazrana Parker, Manager for the Office for Student Development, as it ticked a number of boxes in the university’s Institutional Operating Plan (IOP).

“UWC is a space where you not only recognise your capability of gaining a qualification, but it’s a space where you recognise new abilities, your creativity and your enthusiasm to be more than what you initially thought you would be. It’s not a degree that gets hired, but it’s you, in addition to that degree. In this programme, graduates can realise that they have so much to contribute to a variety of teams, organisations and sectors beyond the scope of their qualification. The world becomes a bigger oyster as they have now broken the barriers of previous stereotypes”.

Ncedikaya Magopeni, Executive Assistant in the Office of the DVC: SDS, congratulated the interns and thanked all those who have made the programme a success.

“We have been able to show through evidence that SDS has a big role to play, and GCDP is a manifestation of that. We never had interns before, but we did something out of the ordinary. Not unique, but we have made our mark as SDS. If we talk about preparing students for the world of work, we, as potential employers, need to believe in our own graduates and think about the best ways to provide our graduates with opportunities to apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom in a real workplace context, thereby placing them at a competitive advantage. Also, we need to expose graduates to learning about organisational culture, workplace fit and provide opportunities for networking. Lastly, we create a recruitment pool of potential employees within student development and support.