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More than 200 unemployed youth were given a new beginning when they signed employment contracts with various accommodation, travel and hospitality establishments in a Tourism Internship Programme spearheaded by the City of Johannesburg (COJ).

The internship will give them a head start into their future careers and other employment opportunities. As from August 2, these youngsters from all walks of life, in and around Gauteng, will start an intensive seven-month long programme that will expose them to the tourism sector -- ­ the fourth largest contributor of employment in the country.

Out of a total of 220 youths, 190 will be placed in various programmes in hospitality, tourism and travel jobs. The other 30 opportunities were set aside for a chef's programme, which has so far managed to get only six suitable candidates.

Mr. Soza Simango, from the city’s Department of Economic Development says, "It indicates a possible skills gap, however, we need to revisit the manner in which our advertising was done. Maybe we did not reach as many people as we would have wanted. It does, however, present us with an opportunity to review our approach."

Simango says the intern's ages range between 18 and 35, adding the selection criteria followed the Extended Public Works Programme of 40% women, 30% men and 2% consisting of people with disabilities.

Ms. Marina Meyer, the City of Johannesburg's Executive Director of Economic Development says, "Today's launch responds to the growing youth unemployment. In developing this internship, the City engaged the local travel, tourism and hospitality industry stakeholders about working together to create a programme where employers would offer workplace opportunities in critical job categories.”

She added that the City's role was to support the industry by paying a monthly stipend to allow the interns to accumulate work experience while increasing their chances of being employed.

A combination of big and small establishments clubbed together to offer some of the opportunities. These included: Radisson Blue Hotel Sandton, Radisson Blue Hotel Gautrain, Booysens Hotel, Culinary Passion School Hospitality, Vaal nests Boutique Hotel, The Elegant Lodge, Hospitality Ambassadors, Maropeng Visitor Centre and Hotel, City Lodge Group, Kwa Eden Accommodation and Conferencing, Riviera on the Vaal Hotel and Spa, Adler Museum of Medicine, WITS, Department of Economic Development, Community Development and Joburg Tourism Company.

Councilor Ruby Mathang, MMC for Economic Development listed a number of other programmes designed by COJ and aimed at empowering the youth.

"These include the youth entrepreneurship strategy and the skills development strategy. Youth programmes include the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme, which has certified over 2 000 competent individuals and placed over 200 of them in the construction sector in the past three years. The Leago Work Placement Programme, will train 1 000 individuals and place over 500 youth in the construction, ICT, media and communications and the services sectors."

He was quick to caution that the battle was far from over, adding that since 2008, the statistics on job losses as a result of the global economic recession was also worrying.

Says Mathang, "We then looked at the interventions we can make in order to sustain employment creation, and the tourism sector offers an exciting platform for us to radically change the lives of many people, particularly the youth. The Growth Plan for instance, has identified a potential of 225 000 jobs in the tourism sector, to be unlocked by the year 2015, with a further 50 000 business services jobs in 2020.

"We have quantified the proportional share that Joburg must deliver in order to meet the national target of 225 000 tourism jobs to be created by the year 2015. This internship programme is designed to propel and expand on the already growing tourism sector in Johannesburg," he adds.

 Mathang went on to applaud the partnership with employers who have created the employment opportunities for the youth.

 "You have all demonstrated, in your individual capacities your commitment to a better South Africa. Your willingness to hold future leaders by the hand, guiding them, nurturing their careers echoes the call to action by the State President when he challenged all of us to fight the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality. 

"We are launching this as a pilot for the sector with the view of show casing what partnerships can do for our City, the youth and of course the country.

In the future, much broader industry participation will be pursued and the numbers of empowered youth will hopefully increase,” says Mathang

The positions that were made available for the Internship Programme are:

Museum and heritage sites security officers
Museum, galleries and heritage sites education officers
Waiters and waitresses
Research interns
Museum and galleries curators
Museum assistants
Tour guides
Tourism marketing officers
General workers
Security receptionists
Night clerks
Office administrators
Accounts administrators
Food and beverages
Switchboard operators
Human resource administrators
Reservations administrators
Ticket office assistants
Tourism officers
Meeting and events coordinator
Purchasing and store clerk
Guest relations officer
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