“I have always believed the conservation graduates are out there but not visible because they struggle to find their way into the workplace. This has been confirmed by the number of graduates applying to WWF-SA for placements as WWF Nedbank Green Trust interns – we’ve been flooded with outstanding applications,” says Dr Glenda Raven, Senior Manager of the WWF Environmental Leaders Programme (pictured) within which graduate placements are co-ordinated.
In 2013 the WWF Nedbank Green Trust is funding the placement of 10 Masters degree students who have environment and conservation-related qualifications within this programme. The interns are from a cross-section of South African universities and 70% of them are black South Africans. The total funding for this programme is R2.4-million over 18 months.
“The programme creates a bridge from university to the workplace in South Africa, where graduates, who either have their Masters degree or are pursuing one, are placed for an 18-month internship, either with WWF-SA or a range of environment and conservation organisations aligned to WWF-SA’s work and objectives,” explains Raven.
The programme works as follows: the WWF Nedbank Green Trust pays the graduates’ salaries while the conservation organisations bring up their side by appointing a mentor to guide them.
“This way the graduates develop core conservation and professional skills that equip them to find jobs in professional positions where they can directly contribute to the environment and conservation sector in South Africa,” says Maseda Ratshikuni, Head of Cause Marketing at Nedbank.
“Over the past 23 years we’ve funded approximately 190 major conservation projects to the value of R130-million. A high priority for us is to build skills capacity in South Africa’s environment and conservation sector to create a strong foundation for environmental sustainability now and into the future,” adds Ratshikuni.
“This has become increasingly critical in this era of climate change where the next generation of environment and conservation professionals needs to be mentored to manage the substantial environmental challenges our country and the world is facing. We regard graduate internship placements as essential.”
A key underlying aim of these placements is to stimulate the development of a culture of mentoring in the respective conservation/environmental organisations. The ultimate aim is for organisations to allocate a portion of their own training budgets to the placement of interns, providing for longer-term sustainability of internship programmes at an organisational level.
strengthening mentoring capacity
The strengthening of mentoring capacity will be supported by a sector-wide mentorship programme called Conversations for Effective Mentoring of Leaders for Biodiversity. “We intend to develop a set of mentoring guidelines in collaboration with other environment and conservation organisations towards share mentoring good practice,” explains Raven.
For the 18-month period some of the interns will be placed in organisations associated with WWF-SA’s strategic programmes, including sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries and integrated water resource management. The variety of environment and conservation organisations and NGOs nationally include:
- The WWF Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA)/Mondi Wetlands Programme;
- The CSIR water resource management programme, which focuses on research to support water resource management for socio-ecological security;
- The COSATU-aligned Naledi (a Cosatu-aligned research institute) where the intern will be placed in a programme that is exploring climate change mitigation strategies in the context of sustainable agriculture amongst small-scale farmers;
- Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA) – a renewable energy and climate change focused NGO where the intern will be engaged in research and engagements aimed at informing renewable energy strategies and actions;
- The Green House – an environmental consultancy company in which the intern will be involved in research and engagements around exploring low carbon transport options;
- Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC) – an NGO focusing on green jobs in the context of climate change where the intern will work on projects aimed at exploring Green Jobs towards supporting a transition to the Green Economy and similarly be exposed to possibilities for job creation in the context of climate change;
- WESSA Western Cape where the intern will work in the context of wetland conservation and restoration;
- SANParks’ Cape Research Centre with a focus on research in the marine environment;
- Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency where the intern will engage with the process of reviewing and responding to mining development applications;
- Centre for Environmental Rights where the intern will be placed in a project officer context focused on community engagement in environmental rights projects.
Recruitment for the 10 Masters graduates started in November and final selection will be done in February to start on 1st April 2013. Each of the successful candidates will receive a salary of R10 000 per month for the duration of the internship. The salary is market related for graduates with their qualifications.
“The interns need to be able to sustain themselves, especially if they have to relocate. We also don’t want them leaving because they have found something else that is better paying,” says Raven.
A coordinator for the Graduate Internship Programme has also been appointed to the Environmental Leaders Programme in WWF-SA and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust is funding this position. The coordinator is Julia September who has a National Diploma in Nature Conservation and a keen interest in people development.
“Down the line, as part of the WWF-SA Graduate Development Programme, we would also like to be able to send the Masters level graduates on an international exchange programme within the WWF network in developing economies, such as China, India and Malaysia. This opportunity could potentially be extended to the WWF Nedbank Green Trust graduates as well This kind of experience adds something extremely valuable to the person and their professional capability,” says Raven.