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STUDENTS and unemployed youth can gain practical work experience at the Johannesburg Zoo, making them more attractive to companies and recruitment agencies.

The zoo has programmes such as internships, the provincial Employment Public Works Project, tour guide induction training and volunteer programmes to counter the youth unemployment crises in the country.

Its internship programme is funded by the local government sector education and training authority (LGSeta) and started in 2010. It runs a 12-month training programme. The course allows unemployed graduates and students who are studying towards fields related to the zoo to work in various departments for a year.

Each year, 20 interns are placed in departments such as marketing, human resources, animal husbandry, veterinary care, maintenance, nutrition and environment, finance, and horticulture.

Interns on the Employment Public Works Project are given a six-month contract. This project enables youth to help with general zoo work. “The Employment Public Works Project takes in unemployed youth with any skills. The project doesn’t require any tertiary qualification,” says Derrick Smith, the zoo’s human resources administrator.

Casual workers are also employed at the zoo and are called to help in various departments for certain periods of time.

Moreover, the zoo’s tour guide induction is a five-day bi-annual course. Trainees learn about being a tour guide in general and specifically at the zoo. Candidates for this position must love nature, have a passion for tourism, a valid driver’s licence, driving experience and must be competent in English.

“Once the course is successfully completed, the zoo employs them on a part time basis to carry out tours within the zoo,” says Smith.

Voluntary work is also welcome at the zoo. As a result, the zoo encourages people to volunteer their time at a specific department when the need arises. Students who volunteer can work in an environment where they can use their theoretical knowledge of subjects in a practical manner.

Since 2010, the zoo has employed a total of 45 students, youths, casual workers and tour guides through its internship programme. These programmes allow participants to be fully integrated into the zoo. They are given specific tasks related to their chosen fields and their performance is monitored by their line managers.

For more information on the internship programme, contact Derrick Smith on 011 646 2000 extension 243 or 224.

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