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Why internships are good for your small business

01 February 2018

By Nikki Summers, Regional Director for Sage in East Africa

Thousands of Grade 12s, among the last school leavers to graduate under Kenya’s 8-4-4 education system, are entering the working world.

By the government’s own admission, this education system does not equip students with work-ready or entrepreneurial skills. As you are a Small & Medium Business owner, I’m sure you can remember how daunting it was starting out with little business knowledge or experience.

This is the reality that thousands of school-leavers now face as they enter the working world – it’s new territory and there’s a lot they don’t know.

No experience, no job

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: businesses want to hire young people with experience but few are willing to provide that experience, for reasons including cost, time and the perception that young people are unmotivated, difficult to manage and lack loyalty.

Yet, as the backbone of the Kenyan economy, Small & Medium Businesses can be the mentors and training grounds that these young people so desperately need – and what they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm, fresh thinking and a deep desire to learn, which can benefit any business.

Here are a few other good reasons why your small business should consider an internship or learnership programme:

  • Build skills while you build your business. Yes, there’s a chance that the graduates might leave after they’ve been upskilled but if you don’t provide opportunities for development, they’ll look for it elsewhere. Through learnerships, you’re also directly contributing to the skills pool of the country, which has a knock-on effect on job creation and economic growth.
  • Tax benefits. Last year, the Treasury gazetted regulations allowing businesses to claim a tax rebate equal to 50% of apprentices’ salaries, if they hired at least 10 graduates.
  • Save on hiring costs. It’s cheaper to train and retain existing team members than it is to hire new ones. Learnerships and internships not only provide an opportunity to identify and develop talent; they also boost your team’s confidence and increase job satisfaction and loyalty.

In 2016, Small & Medium Businesses created more jobs than the private and public sectors combined, accounting for 90% of all new jobs created. Imagine the difference we could make – especially at grassroots level – if every business offered a learnership or internship to one Grade 12.

Young people bring a new energy and optimism to any business, adding diversity, different perspectives, 21st Century skills, and new values and experiences to the workplace.

Businesses often lament the fact that the education system does not produce work-ready graduates yet they are the solution to that challenge. And with the youth making up the majority of unemployed people, we can all play a small part, to collectively make a massive difference.

The makings of a successful learnership programme

Hire for attitude; train for skill.  Skills can be taught; work ethic and cultural fit can’t.

Structure your programme.  Include both theoretical and practical training and provide a recognised qualification on completion.

Sign a contract.  A contract between the learner, your business and an accredited skills development training provider should outline specific conditions of the internship.

Compensate.  Cover the learner’s basic costs, including rent, food and travel expenses.

Include soft skills training.  Communications, time management and collaboration are important business skills.

Challenge them.  Don’t just give them mundane, entry-level work.  Give them an opportunity to bring their fresh perspectives to business problems.

Align with their values.  Millennials want to work for a company that makes a difference in society.

Keep in contact.  If you don’t hire them now, you might want to in future.