There is something about being exposed to the real world – the real world of work, specifically – that helps young adults morph from the young to the adult part of that phrase.

As an educator at a technical institution of learning, which sent their learners off for a period of in-service training/internship – before they got their qualification – I would always immediately see the difference once the students came back. Gone were the shy, reserved, unsure youngsters whom we had sent out into the world, and in their place were confident, worldly-wise young adults who had been operating out in the field, survived and thrived, and were now coming back armed with skills and knowledge that they could immediately use in the vocation they had signed up for, or transfer these into any work environment – the soft skills they learnt working with others cooperatively would be invaluable anywhere, as would things like relying on their judgment in a tricky situation, and coming out OK.

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared 15 July to be World Youth Skills Day, to celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.

In this age when skill sets and jobs have become very formalised, internships help young adults access these work environments in a safe space, where their enthusiasms and budding competencies can be nurtured by adults already walking the path they are just setting out on.

One such young adult is Jeorge Manuel, 20, who will be studying mechatronics at an institution of higher learning next year. This year he managed to get an internship at the kind of company he may eventually end up in. I asked him what the experience has meant for him.

What has been the most valuable part of your internship?

I was quite lucky in acquiring this opportunity as, technically, I am not qualified for it – it is usually only offered to post-graduates, and I have not gone to university yet. I would say that the most valuable part is being given a chance to gain insight into the world of engineers. More importantly, to establish the relationships that may one day come in handy when I am more qualified to do real engineering work.

What has been the most surprising?

Discovering that we had companies in South Africa doing these crazy things! Newspace Systems designs and manufactures robust solutions for satellite orientation for international organisations. Until I started looking for internships, I never would have guessed something like this was happening right here at home.

What has been the most challenging?

My sheer helplessness around these smart people! Because of my lack of qualifications I could not work on anything that was significant and it bothered me initially. But the guys in the office are always supportive so they try to find different interesting things for me to do.

What do you think you have brought to the team?

One day while I was in the lab soldering some PC boards our project manager came in to talk to me. He said he really appreciated the work I had been doing. The engineers have strenuous work and he said I was contributing towards taking away some of the stress of it. It made me happy to hear that because even though I was unable to help with anything major, I could still contribute in a way that helped everyone out.

What advice do you have for other young people who would like to get an internship experience?

Always do what you really want to do and never settle for less. People can tell when you’re passionate about something and I believe that is why I was able to get this internship. Your path to your goal may deviate in as many ways as there can be, but as long as you have that end in mind, nothing else matters. Believe in yourself always, and never stop dreaming. Your will in this world is the only thing you have to become someone significant; to leave a mark in the halls of history. Never forget that.


Tell us: As a young person, what kind of skills and aptitudes do you already possess that would make you a useful person to have around as an intern?

If you enjoyed this blog, you may also like learning about employability here.