Bridgestone Southern Africa’s graduate development programme has been partnering with the Yes4Youth programme since 2020, with 151 graduates and diplomates having received a comprehensive internship to prepare them for the world of work.
However, the company’s proudest boast is that it has managed to place 42 of these graduates in permanent positions within the company, says Botaki Hlalele, head of talent at Bridgestone Southern Africa.
“We are committed to supporting the Government’s drive to reduce unemployment by providing the work experience our 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 to really get their careers started,” he says. “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 this has contributed to our achievement of Level 1 status this year.”
Three former Yes4Youth interns who now have permanent positions give 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.
“Above all, I am gaining more confidence in the engineering and operations field,” he says. “I am more driven and have developed a positive attitude.” He sees the company as a good place to develop a career because of the opportunities it offers—as evidenced by his rapid promotion to shift engineer already. He aims to obtain the Government Certificate of Competency for Mechanical Engineers in pursuit of his long-term goal of becoming an excellent all-round maintenance engineer.
Limpopo-born Risuna Mabasa is a Logistics and Supply Chain graduate and is now a planning analyst at Bridgestone’s Brits manufacturing facility. Like Ayanda, 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,” Risuna says.
In the short term, she is determined to improve her understanding of the demand side of planning. Long term, she has set her sights on becoming a member of the executive committee and a supply chain manager.
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. As a result, she has become better at working on her own and has begun to develop her business acumen. Ephodia has also sharpened her skills in a wide variety of skillsets, including project management, presentation, report writing, stakeholder engagement, coordination, and general administration.
She aims to build her reputation through delivering quality results on her projects on the way to joining the HR leadership team in the future.
A common thread is the liberating effect of being entrusted with one’s own projects and taking responsibility for the results.
All three of these youthful go-getters acknowledge that the Yes4Youth programme opened doors for them. Ephodia’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,” she adds. Risuna agrees: “Let your work speak for itself.”
Ayanda 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. “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!”