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Working Student Programme addresses work-readiness gap

It's time for organisations to give aspiring students the chance to work while they study and prove that coming from a disadvantaged background does not determine or limit potential. Students can now form part of a Working Student Programme, designed to uplift young people who want to study further and increase future employment opportunities while offering South African businesses a meaningful way to improve their B-BBEE score.

“Our vision is to see more than a thousand students graduating with a degree or postgraduate qualification through this programme. These students will be able to finish their degrees with work experience and without debt,” says Deon Oberholzer, Director at ProudAfrique Human Capital, a B-BBEE skills development facilitation company.

Original and proven business transformation models can be used to help companies unlock business growth and shareholder value through B-BBEE and this programme is one of them. Oberholzer explains that the Working Student Programme was initially conceptualised to assist companies with improving their B-BBEE scores in a meaningful way, against the backdrop of the new requirements for expenditure on bursaries for students at higher education institutions. “However, after considerable research, we decided to refine this programme as a mainstream initiative to broaden its impact on society. We are currently running the pilot and enrolled 23 students who are studying a number of different graduate programmes,” says Oberholzer.

“StatsSA’s fourth-quarter 2019 analysis shows that the country’s unemployment rate is at 29.1%, already making it one of the highest in the world. These stats are likely to worsen dramatically. Also, the Covid-19 crisis has placed unprecedented challenges on local businesses, many of which are fighting for survival. Devastating job losses, record levels of unemployment and increased poverty can be expected in months and even years to come.”

“At the same time, we have our youth who have dreams to study further, career aspirations and visions to escape the cycle of poverty that has held their families in its grip for generations. We felt it was time to create a real opportunity for aspiring young people to break the cycle, achieve their goals and accomplish great things.”

With the Working Student Programme, students can earn an income while studying in an appropriate field of work. They can progress in their studies as their performance at work is continuously monitored. However, Oberholzer says that the programme is distinguished from other internship and work-while-studying programmes because it aims to equip participants with life and work readiness skills to improve their employability. Students receive work readiness training, job competency training, study support and mentorship while they focus on developing skills that are aligned with their chosen field of study. In addition, students are enrolled in the Keys to Life programme which teaches invaluable life skills to foster accountability, responsibility and sustainability. Students who are a part of this programme will be funded and paid during the lockdown period.

Oberholzer concludes: “Much of South Africa’s unemployed youth have never had a proper job. Even those who have managed to achieve a qualification battle to find work because they have limited skills to enter the formal job market. Unemployment of young people in South Africa, aged 15-24, who were not in employment, education or training in Quarter four of 2019 was 32%.

“With the Working Student Programme, we hope to fill the critical gap in work readiness to address the problem of unemployability amongst youths who have ambitions to study and become gainfully employed in their chosen field.

“For companies who want to focus on helping with higher education opportunities, the benefits go beyond achieving a higher B-BBEE score and meeting skills development requirements. The real reward is the opportunity to help nurture and recruit the cream of South Africa’s youth on their road to greatness.”
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