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Youth unemployment shock: high as 70%, companies encouraged to take on graduate interns

28 October 2014 David Feinberg, Internfit
David Feinberg, the founder of Internfit.

David Feinberg, the founder of Internfit.

South Africa has the third highest unemployment rate in the world for people between the ages of 15 to 24, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk 2014 report. The report estimates that more than 50% of young South Africans between 15 and 24 are unemployed. Only Greece and Spain have higher unemployment in this age range.

There are around 600 000 unemployed graduates in South Africa. Whilst 25% of the country is unemployed, Gill Marcus, governor of the Reserve Bank stated that 53% of youth are unemployed but this excludes discouraged work-seekers. Estimates have put that figure closer to 70%.

Says David Feinberg, the founder of Internfit, “South Africa's high youth unemployment rate is extremely concerning and has serious social and economic repercussions. Only around 12% of South Africans have a tertiary education. One would imagine that in a skills-starved economy they are in high demand, but unfortunately finding an internship can be an extremely frustrating experience for both employers who get many requests and for the students who often have to contact each company individually.”

Internfit, an online internship portal aims to help students and graduates connect with employers. It was developed by two university students who understood first-hand the problems that graduates face in finding work experience.

Feinberg continues, “Traditionally corporates have been the main employer of interns with structured programmes which help to maximise the experience for the intern, and to meet the long term HR requirements for the company. According to the revised BEE codes of good practice which are to be implemented in 2015, the hiring of interns will now contribute skills development points. Increasingly, small and medium sized businesses are also making more use of interns. These businesses are able to get more done at a lower cost, while giving graduates the opportunity to get practical experience.

“Internfit has around 6000 students and graduates available nationally for positions. They have qualifications in IT, marketing, finance/accounts and graphic design amongst others. All interns have tertiary education and are university or college educated. They have either degrees or diplomas.

“We are working with listed companies like Bidvest, Discovery and Liberty Life as well as many smaller companies including start-ups. 90% of internships listed on our site are filled successfully. Businesses struggling with their work load should consider interns to ease the pressure as this is an extremely cost effective approach.”

Internship positions may be paid or unpaid. Sometimes an employer offers only an allowance for food and/or travel which is around R2 000 – R3 000 a month. Those that are paid are offered in the region of R8 000 to R10 000. The amount paid and whether to pay depends on the sector and what the intern has studied. Businesses can take advantage of the Employment Tax Incentive. The incentive is to employ young people aged between 18 and 29 by offering a government subsidy of up to 50% on salaries of R6000 or less.

An internship is a way that a final year student or a recent graduate can gain work experience and learn to implement what he or she has studied. Companies benefit because they are able to hand pick talent and they are able to train and retain future industry leaders.

Internfit is free for interns. Rates start at only R400 to fill internship positions for employers.

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