Limited job opportunities for international students at careers fair

NATIONAL EDGE?:  A recruiter explains to Witsies their available options for their career applications.  Photo: Lameez Omarjee

NATIONAL EDGE?: A recruiter explains to Witsies their available options for their career applications. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

International students can forget about applying for jobs in South Africa, unless they have an identity document (ID) or work permit. This was the general message at a careers fair, held earlier today at the Old Mutual Sports Hall at Wits.

The Counselling and Careers Developmental Unit’s (CCDU) graduate recruitment programme organised the fair for students from across all faculties but there was little on offer for students from outside South Africa.

Limited choices

International student Tinashe Chuchu, Masters in Marketing, attended the fair to look for potential recruiters and employment opportunities. He said the fair was a good initiative by Wits, however his choices are limited given his degree and nationality.

“There were a wide variety of opportunities for engineering students, social sciences students and commerce students,” he said.  However he was turned away by companies who were not looking foreign students. “I left out all the banks, for obvious reasons.  They do not take anyone who is not South African,” Chuchu said.

“I think the labour department puts (sic) regulations for companies to fulfil quotas,” he said.  In his own experience of looking for jobs, Chuchu found that there were positions advertised for international students, but only for specific and scarce skills sets.

Laws and regulations

Kwame Owusu-Ansah, masters in Chemical Engineering, shared Chuchu’s views.  Although there were many opportunities, Owusu-Ansah said some of them were very “shaky”.  You can apply for some positions, but then you have to make sure you can get a work permit.

“I have a wide variety of choices because I’m an engineer.  But until they find out I’m an international student, it slashes by three quarters.”

“Initially if you got an offer there would be an opportunity for you to get a permit.  But now you may get an offer, and not a get permit”

He explained that South African labour regulations are more stringent than in previous years.  “They often refuse permits for international students, even if they give you an offer,” he said.

Lloyd Uta, an international student completing his Masters in Marketing, found companies that were looking for applicants from South Africa and abroad.  Those were big multi-national companies and a few smaller companies looking to increase their human capital, he said.

However, Uta admits, “Choices are limited.  I have to keep switching between what I want to do (marketing) and what I can do (IT),” to find job openings.

Employers voice

Amos Kova,  a graduate recruitment manager at a bank explained why applicants had to be South African citizens, “We believe that we have an obligation to South Africa”.

Bohlale Paile, also a graduate recruitment manager at a bank said: “We don’t take international students at this point.  We did before, but we ran into problems when it came to getting work permits”.

She explained that the Department of Labour required recruiters to motivate why non-South African citizens were chosen over South African citizens.

The motivation process and applications for work permits take time, which holds international graduates back from starting the graduate programme timeously.

Raj Naran, the Career Development Educator and Team Leader Career Services at CCDU said this year, the careers fair was open to everybody.  “It does not have a specific focus.”

Companies came from industries where there was a shortage in a skills set, such as “accounting, engineering and commerce” he said.

Naran added that students should earn their jobs, develop themselves and prepare well, “and certainly, academic records play a role”.

Another careers fair is scheduled for September this year.

 

RELATED ARTICLES:

 

Do the youth need another index?

Shaun Vorster, Business Development partner for the Youth Employment Index. Photo: Palesa Radebe

Shaun Vorster, Business Development partner for the Youth Employment Index. Photo: Palesa Radebe

In an attempt to combat youth unemployment, three companies have combined resources and created an online index where corporate businesses can “register and actively contribute to the employment of young South African talent.”

Uwin Iwin, Mazars and Pleiades Media have collectively established a Youth Employment Index (YEI) which is meant to help companies track youth (individuals aged between 16-35) employment.

“The YEI is a platform where corporates can see how they are faring against each other” in terms on youth employment, said Nazreen Pandor, chairperson of the YEI and associate director at Mazars.

She said the YEI will help create healthy competition, with corporates spurring each other to employ young people, or at least provide opportunities for them to contribute to South Africa.

The YEI is a measurement index that tracks youth employed in corporates and measures development opportunities afforded to them.

According to StatsSA, the 2012 third quarter unemployment rate among the 15- to 24-year-old age group is estimated at 48.2%. The aim of YEI is to encourage businesses to prioritise youth employment and development

Kerry Botha, CEO of Pleiades Media in the YEI  said they have always believed in the value of public relations and the powerful role the media had to play in catalysing the necessary shifts in youth employment.

Sarah Botha, daughter of Kerry Botha and account executive of YEI said YEI was established to “make sure people my age and younger are offered the same opportunities.”

The limitations to the YEI are: the index will be a “self-assessment” index meaning companies rate themselves on how well they think they have done and their rating is limited to the “integrity” of the company; the index methodology hasn’t been properly defined and it doesn’t articulate if broad-based-black economic empowerment (government policy) will be considered; no definite corporates were said to have signed up.

 

IHRE invests in future of Witsies

THE International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE) programme at Wits’ is investing in the future of students by offering them employment opportunities through internships.

The programme offers an average of 50 local and international Wits students internships at prominent non-governmental and other organisations such as the SA Human Rights Commission, Civicus, Helen Suzman Foundation and Sonke Gender Justice.

The initiative by IHRE attempts to deal with the widespread problem of unemployment that South Africa faces by allowing students to work and gain experience in the areas of research and project management to make them more marketable by the time they graduate.

IHRE’s programme assistant and student liaison, Shingirai Taodzera, says the South African job market is “extremely competitive” and “expanding at a slow pace”, making it essential for students to have “networked and gained practical skills of the work environment to limit the hardships of finding a job after completing their degrees”.

 “Because social sciences is mostly non profitable in comparison to other fields such as engineering, networking is important to allow students to know where jobs could be, and if they have the experience of working, it makes it easier for them.

 “IHRE offers internships so that students can learn etiquette, teamwork, leadership and inter-personal skills in a more practical manner because this is vital in the kinds of work they will do when they leave university.”

International relations honours student, Veronica Benham, has been part of IHRE for three years and having done an internship at the South African Human Rights Commission, feels she has “climatised to the work environment”.

“I had good relations with people at the commission and they were willing to have me beyond the duration of the internship,” she said.

Blake Desormeaux is an international student from Wellesley College in Boston, US, who is interning at the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).

“Through the IHRE internship I hope to gain more insight as to how better I can help the gay and lesbian support group which I run back at my college,” she said.