Requirement for the award of a qualification:
Many qualifications offered by tertiary education institutions include structured practical workplace learning as a requirement for the award of the qualification. For example:
Students enrolled for Diplomas and Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) programmes at universities of technology have to complete practicals (P1 and P2) for periods of 24 weeks in workplaces.
As part of the Bachelor of Health Science: Medical Laboratory Science offered by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) students are required to complete a six month work-integrated learning programme and a one year clinical practice internship in a registered training laboratory before writing a national Board Exam set by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
The National Accredited Technical Education Diploma (NATED) programmes offered by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges require 18 months’ practical application of knowledge in a workplace for the student to be awarded the National N-Diploma on NQF Level 6.
Requirement for professional registration:
Some occupations (e.g. in the engineering, legal and medical fields) require practitioners to register with a professional body before they are allowed to practice the profession. Such practitioners must complete an internship covering specified requirements and obligations after obtaining the qualification for the occupation.
For example, a pharmacy internship of 12 months is compulsory for those who have completed a B. Pharmacy (or equivalent) degree and who wish to register with the SA Pharmacy Council (SAPC) as a Pharmacist.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Law degree (LLB), graduates must complete a six months internship (referred to as ‘articles of clerkship’) before being allowed to write the admission exam of the Law Society to be registered as an attorney.
Work experience not linked to a qualification: There are many other opportunities to gain work exposure in arrangements similar to internships for persons with or without qualifications, for example at Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) or in the public sector. Even though these are not linked to qualifications or formal training, they provide valuable learning opportunities that should be used to gain work experience. Some are described as ‘workplace-readiness programmes’ for unemployed graduates.
The beneficiaries of internships are the youth between the ages of 18 and 35 years who have not yet entered employment or who are unemployed. Applicants for internship opportunities must be South African citizens who live in South Africa and should be fluent in English. Generally, internships are linked to fields of study and occupations, such as Human Resource Administrator, Industrial Engineer, Client Support Consultant and Pharmacist, and many other occupations.
In addition to these general criteria, more stringent criteria apply for specific internships. For example, the criteria for Civil Engineering internships include having passed Grade 12 with exemption and a 65% minimum average in all academic studies. Other internship opportunities are offered for specific target groups, e.g. only for university graduates with a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech), or only for females, or for persons with disabilities.
How long does it take to complete an internship?
The duration of the internship is determined by the type of internship. Internships that are a prerequisite for the award of a qualification are generally completed over one year to 18 months. Internships that mainly provide unemployed persons with work experience could be much shorter.
Which parties are involved in internships?
The main parties involved in an internship are:
- The intern who will be gaining the work experience at a workplace;
- The employer who is providing the opportunity for the intern to gain work experience;
- The training provider (e.g. TVET college or university of technology) – only in specifying the work experience for interns who are completing the compulsory work-based learning component of qualifications; and
- The Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) – only if the SETA is supporting the internship through the internship grant paid to the employer.
What should be in an internship contract?
Interns and the employers hosting the interns should sign an internship contract that should
include the following:
- Details of the employer and the intern (or the guardian if the intern is a minor);
- The conditions and requirements of the internship, e.g. the compulsory work experience activities, support provided to the intern by a mentor;
- The start and end dates of the internship;
- Remuneration to be paid to the intern;
- Leave and other employment conditions for the duration of the internship contract, for example, adherence to Occupational Health and Safety or industry requirements, disciplinary procedures, and termination of the internship contract; and
- Information about the certificate of service to be provided to the intern at the end of the internship.
If the internship is funded by a SETA, the SETA may have additional requirements for the internship contract.
What will learners received at the end of the internship?
Where the internship is a compulsory part of a qualification, interns who meet all the requirements will be awarded the qualification. Employers should provide interns with a Certificate of Service, which could assist interns in finding employment. As stated earlier, interns are not guaranteed employment with the employer that offered the internship opportunity, although the employer may decide to recruit new employees from the outstanding interns who meet the employer’s selection criteria. For example, Mercedes-Benz South Africa and other companies regularly recruit top performing interns as employees.
Interns generally receive a monthly allowance (or stipend) during the internship. The amounts vary depending on the internship, with higher amounts paid for interns with higher level qualifications. For example in 2015, interns with a Level 5 qualification on a specific internship received an allowance of R 3 000 per month while interns with a Level 7 qualification received between R 4 000 and R 5 000.
In some cases (e.g. internships in Non-Profit Organisations) interns are not paid or they receive a small stipend to cover travel costs. Despite this, these are valuable learning opportunities that should be used if no funded internships are available.
The Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) provide internship grants to employers of interns, but in some cases the employer pays the allowance. Where the SETAs provide such grants, the amounts and conditions of payment are determined by the SETA’s funding policy.
These are key factors that aspiring interns should consider before signing the internship contract to ensure that the internship will add value and address their specific needs.
Where the internship is compulsory to obtaining a qualification, make sure that the workplace will enable you to complete the prescribed practical learning activities.
Make sure that the employer understands any conditions and requirements relating to the specific internship and the employer’s responsibilities in meeting these.
Make sure that the employer will provide the support you will need to complete the workplace learning activities, for example by designating someone to perform a mentoring role.
In cases where workplace learning activities must be assessed, determine whether the employer has made provision for it.
Avoid being exploited by the employer as cheap labour instead of enabling you to gain a valuable learning experience.
There are many internship opportunities in South Africa, with the 2015 target of 14 000 unemployed persons entering internships. Most internship opportunities are advertised on the internet, for example on career websites, through the career offices of educational institutions, and on the websites of companies and government departments. The advertisements generally describe the eligibility criteria and application process.
The following are examples of websites with information on internship opportunities.
http://www.internships-sa.co.za/: This website has a function to search for internships in specific fields, such as marketing.
http://www.careers24.com/jobs/lc-south-africa/kw-internship/: This website has a function to search for internships per province.
http://internships-southafrica.co.za/government-internships/: This website is for internships offered in government departments that encourage unemployed graduates, people with disability and those from previously disadvantaged communities to apply.
http://www.tshwaneline.co.za/index.html: This website provides details on internships available across the country per company or government department.
https://www.jobted.co.za/internship-jobs: This website is mainly for international students interested in internships or volunteering in Cape Town or South Africa.