‘Green’ internships for SA youth

12 June 2013

South Africa has launched a R300-million training, mentoring and workplace-based learning project aimed at building a pool of young, capable professionals for the country’s biodiversity and natural resource management sector.

The Groen Sebenza project, launched by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa in Pretoria on the weekend, aims to develop skills while bridging the gap between education and job opportunities in South Africa’s green economy.

Spearheaded by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi), the innovative project will see 800 unemployed graduates and matriculants being placed in skilled biodiversity jobs in both the public and private sector for a period of two-and-a-half years.

The practical workplace experience and training will, it is hoped, kick-start their careers in a fast-growing industry.

Over half of the interns commenced with the programme in May, with the remainder due to begin this month.

The project is sponsored by the government’s Jobs Fund, which is administered by the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

“The Groen Sebenza venture effectively brings to life the ideals of the vision of a green economy, by mobilising for and engendering the involvement of young people in the management of biodiversity through job creation,” Sanbi CEO Tanya Abrahamse said at the launch.

A month into the project, the young participants and the 33 Groen Sebenza partner organisations say they are thrilled to be part of the initiative.

Sabelo Linda, a 28-year-old from Osizweni, a semi-rural area in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, who is working at NCC Environmental Services in Cape Town, says he is “very grateful” for the opportunity he has been given.

Despite holding an Honours degree in science, Linda was unemployed for the first few months after completing his studies, and had to rely on the help of friends to support his siblings.

Honing his skills in the field of environmental management, Linda says he feels encouraged by the structured and earnest manner in which the NCC approaches the intensive learning and mentorship of the Groen Sebenza “incubants”.

Another participant, Sanelisiwe Mkhize, is training in nature conservation with Ezemvelo Wildlife with only a matric school certificate to her name. Mkhize followed her second choice of study, public management, at the Durban University of Technology last year, but was forced to drop out when her family experienced financial problems.

Mkhize feels she has now been given a second chance to “prove myself” and realise her ambition of following a career in nature conservation.

Along with three other participants, Mkhize is currently focusing on commercial offshore fishing and compliances which involves inspecting the fish offloaded in the harbour and sold in restaurants for species and sizes.

SAinfo reporter and South African National Biodiversity Institute