Don’t ask 24-year old Mahlatse Mafukate where he sees himself in 10 years’ time; ask him what he wants right now: a good job and a secure future. It’s not more complicated than that.
Mahlatse Mafukate | My Time is Now
Mahlatse Mafukate is one of four interns recruited by WDB Investment Holdings in March 2020. He was seconded to Seed Academy just before South Africa went into hard lockdown.
Although the timing of getting an internship in a pandemic was not ideal, Mahlatse embraced the opportunity with a positive attitude.
He admits that working online provided some challenges.
“I would be busy in a meeting and there would be kids on the street making a noise and then the connection would drop! It wasn’t easy,” says Mahlatse. “Things were easier when we could go into the office, as long as we followed the Covid-19 regulations.”
Getting "Work Experience"
Mahlatse grew up and went to school in Tembisa. After graduating from high school in 2017, he attended the University of Limpopo, where he studied a Bachelor of Public Administration, majoring in public administration, human resources and labour relations. He says getting a degree is one thing, but putting that knowledge to use in the workplace is a different story.
“When I joined Seed I knew I had a lot to learn and I was very determined. I gave myself a timeframe – within a month I wanted to know everything that was happening in the company, he says. A fast learner, Mahlatse was happy to be entrenched in a variety of activities, from finance to marketing and communications, and thrived when given the task of assisting the team at Seed with recruiting entrepreneurs for their various mentorship programmes.
“I got into the finer details like arranging meetings with mentors and the entrepreneurs, doing invoices and monitoring the process of the sessions between the entrepreneurs.”
He says the time at Seed has been enlightening, and the support has been incredible.
“Honestly, I wish I could work at Seed forever; if you are given a task and if you don’t understand, they will help you all the way through to the end. The team is very supportive.”
Entrepreneurship and Expectations
He says starting a business is not a quick-fix for young people in South Africa.
“I have learnt at Seed that starting a business requires some skills. You can’t just wake up in the morning and open a business, you need a lot of skills – business and marketing skills – and you need to identify what your community wants or needs, and see what you can do differently.”
There is also quite a lot of pressure from the community on what types of business the youth get involved in.
“If you went to university, you can’t now be selling cool drinks on the street. Most of the youth would be ashamed to do that. They can’t hustle now, because they will say, ‘I went to school so I have to get a proper job because of what the community will say’. Sometimes the community is breaking the mind-set of the youth instead of supporting us, and we get easily discouraged,” he says.
He says the support that companies like WDBIH and Seed provide are a great example of how the private sector can assist graduates and entrepreneurs, with internships and supportive entrepreneurship programmes to upskill those who want to start businesses.
“There should be more companies providing mentorship and entrepreneurship, because as these start-ups grow, they will need more space and then they’ll hire more people and therefore they are dealing with unemployment.”
Youth Unemployment and Mental Health
With rising unemployment levels, Mahlatse says he is one of the lucky ones – many of his friends continue to look for jobs, with not much success.
“The group of friends that I was studying with at university all completed our degrees in 2019 and none of them is working currently, except for me. They are applying every day for different roles and different internships and there is just no luck.”
He says the unemployment situation is taking a very real toll on the mental health of the youth, and that it’s difficult to manage the situation on a personal level.
The unemployment situation is taking a very real toll on the mental health of the youth, and that it’s difficult to manage the situation on a personal level.
“It’s very challenging to tell your friends that you have an internship and an opportunity and they haven’t. They think, ‘What about me?’ and I think it’s this situation that is causing a lot of depression.”
He says just getting to a job interview can be problematic for many on a job-hunting quest.
“Although I am just an intern, I can’t fail to give someone money to go for an interview because tomorrow, I’ll be the one needing help from them. So, I need to help them today so that they can help me tomorrow.”
He attributes his empathetic attitude towards others to his mother, who passed away in 2019 when he was in his final year at university.
“She always told me to be gentle and have a positive attitude towards everything that you’re doing because the person that you see as nobody today might be the person who’s going to pay your bills one day.”
The Now Generation
Mahlatse is very pleased that although the internship was supposed to end on February 28, due to the challenges of Covid-19, WDBIH and Seed decided to extend the programme until December 2021, although he does feel nervous about the future.
Like a true Gen-Z, Mahlatse brushes off the question about where he wants to be in 10 years from now; it’s all about this moment in time.
“I currently see myself having a permanent job, a secure job. That’s what I want right now. Every day when I wake up, there is that feeling of panic – my internship is coming to an end and what is the next step after that? Will I find luck tomorrow? We just live by God’s grace, you know…”
The WDBIH Internship Programme
WDBIH started an internship programme in 2017, taking in 10 graduates (six women and four men) with the primary aim of giving them a year or two of exposure to the finance and investment world, making it easier for them to secure employment. Following this, there was a second intake in 2019 and a third in 2020. WDBIH’s internship programme has impacted over 22 interns since 2017. This programme has proved to be quite successful, with over 90% of our interns obtaining permanent employment in various corporate sectors.