Students who spend the best part of fifteen years in education to get to university are being sold a dream. However, it’s a dream that is quickly becoming a nightmare for the South African graduate.
David Lekomanyane completed his degree in mining engineering back in 2015. The University of Johannesburg alumni was the first in his family to go to university, and emerged successful from his four-year course.
However, fast-forward another couple of years, and David is in trouble. He’s facing the catch 22 that besieges almost every student at some point: Sure, he has the brains and the application… But he doesn’t have the experience.
He doesn’t have the experience. Because no-one will give him the experience. This isn’t exclusive to mining: Many ‘entry-level’ jobs are a hollow shell of their name, preferring candidates who have already established themselves in the industry.
Through government loans and funding from the Mining Qualifications Authority, Mr Lekomanyane was able to secure his R200,000 tuition payments. However, that investment hasn’t yielded a positive result.
David currently volunteers in the mines of Mpumalanga, earning just R2,000 a month. He’s taken the derisory offer in order to build up his work experience. He says he ‘knows he’ll get the job he deserves’ one day, and continues to work himself into the ground. We salute David’s tenacity.
For others however, giving up is simply the most practical answer: A sign of realism rather than failure. Our best and brightest are forced to take jobs that make ends meet, rather than ones that feed their true potential.
Natasha Terlecki of job finders Kelly Quest suggests that young, qualified professionals should register with employment agencies. They will find the most suitable type of work based on one’s area of expertise. Terlecki also advised:
“Graduates should also consider internships‚ often available as a paid learning opportunity with companies. Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. As you build up experience and job knowledge‚ additional opportunities will open up.”
“Once in an internship or an entry-level role‚ dedicate your time‚ effort and passion to getting experience on the job and improve your skills. Skills shortages exist in every industry.
So qualifying university students face a few choice: Work for nothing. Work for next to nothing. Work somewhere you don’t want to be. Or get incredibly lucky.
Quite simply, this is not the promised land our students have worked so hard for.