According to the recent stats by Statistics South Africa, 14.9 million young South Africans are unemployed. 

Bridgestone Southern Africa and the Yes4Youth programme have 151 graduates and diplomates who have received a comprehensive internship to ready them for the world of work.

Botaki Hlalele, head of talent at Bridgestone Southern Africa, says that its proudest boast is that it has managed to place 42 of them in permanent positions within the company.

"We are committed to supporting the government's drive to reduce unemployment by providing the work experience the youth need to stand out in the competitive jobs market. But being able to absorb a significant proportion of these young people into the company is particularly gratifying because it gives us a chance really to get their careers started," Hlalele says.

Hlalele adds, "Our drive to absorb as many interns into the company as we can is also a sign of our commitment to both the letter and spirit of BBBEE and contributed to our achievement of Level 1 status this year."

Three former Yes4Youth interns, who now have permanent positions, gave some insight into what that means.

Ayanda Edwin Letsapa, an engineering graduate from Sebokeng, was appointed as maintenance planner in September 2021, subsequently becoming a shift engineer. Since becoming a permanent employee, he has been given the opportunity to improve his technical and communication skills.

Letsapa says that he sees Bridgestone as a good place to develop a career because of the opportunities it offers — as evidenced by his rapid promotion.

Limpopo-born Risuna Mabasa is a logistics and supply chain graduate and is now a planning analyst at Bridgestone's Brits manufacturing facility. Like Letsapa, she found that a permanent position opened up many more opportunities for growth and learning.

"I have learned that, just like in any organisation, you need to have good relations with people. I have also learned good communication skills, as well as Microsoft and SAP," Mabasa says.

Ephodia Mokwala, who also hails from Limpopo, is building a career in HR. Since becoming permanent, she has noticed that she has been given more autonomy and can initiate projects and processes. 

Mokwala has also sharpened her skills in a wide variety of skillsets, including:
  • project management
  • presentation
  • report writing
  • stakeholder engagement
  • coordination, and
  • general administration.
A common thread is the liberating effects of being entrusted with one's own projects and taking responsibility for the results.

All three acknowledge that the Yes4Youth programme opened doors for them. Mokwala's advice to other interns is to cultivate a professional approach and perform each task well. "Always seek feedback so you know what to improve on," says Mokwala. Mabase adds, "Let your work speak for itself."

Letsapa distils what he has learned over the past few months by saying that interns should concentrate on learning how to perform the basic tasks in the departments in which they find themselves. This approach lays the foundation for further advancement and means that the intern is in a position to engage with his or her superiors on a professional level.

Perhaps his most important advice is that the onus is on the intern to ensure they get ahead.

"You have to be willing to approach your superiors to ask for work, ask questions, come up with solutions to current challenges or suggest improvements," he says.

Letsapa concludes, "If you are seen to add value to the business, you are much more likely to be offered a permanent position. Always remember: your superiors are not responsible for your career — you are!"

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