Help us develop the next generation of digital entrepreneurs
By: Birgit Thümecke
At Eventerprise, we have the capacity to offer hands on training in digital entrepreneurship, and we do it every day. Our Young Gun internship program offers state-of-the-art training across numerous departments to students from top universities worldwide. These young people participate in developing real company strategies for our global platform and learn entrepreneurial skills in a fast-paced start-up environment. However, we noticed that something was missing in our Cape Town, South Africa hub – an equal representation of South African students. That’s why we created South Africa’s Got Digital Talent.
At the moment, our Young Gun program is drawing talent from all over the world, but it’s all self-funded by the students and their universities. Most South African university students are required to complete an internship as part of their graduation requirements, but many struggle to do so due to their unpaid or low paying nature. Local South Africans cannot always afford to fund basic parts of the internship process like travel to work or access to a computer.
As an early-stage startup, we need help providing talented South African students, especially those from low resource backgrounds who lack financing to self-fund their internship, the opportunity they need to kick start their career. This opportunity manifests in several ways; it includes gaining digital skills and business experience, but also encompasses simple principles such as feeling comfortable in a 9-5 environment, understanding how to collaborate, being receptive to feedback at work and having the confidence in oneself to pursue entrepreneurial or future innovative business endeavors.
In order to attempt to start solving these inequalities rather than sit idly by, we constructed an initiative whereby we will seek funding from international entities on behalf of students, to benefit the students directly, so that they may complete our Young Gun program in house and gain crucial digital and entrepreneurial skills. We believe that amounts that may seem small to international companies and foundations will have a very large impact on local lives in South Africa, and we will challenge other local companies and start-ups to take up similar initiatives.
What follows is a breakdown of the initiative’s timeline:
Background and conception:
While South Africa’s economy has been rapidly developing, as evidenced by its inclusion in the world’s top emerging markets, it maintains the highest rates of socioeconomic inequality in the world. Experts have asserted that entrepreneurship will be key to closing the income gap in the country, But many South Africans remain constrained from accessing both financial and material resources that they need to build new careers and businesses and gain new digital skill-sets required for success in the modern world. We understand this problem, and seek to prioritize making strides against it, which is why we developed our mission statement:
Technology is central to our daily lives, but not all have access to the benefits and opportunities it offers. Eventerprise is committed to bridging this information gap with the people who would benefit the most. Together with our global partners and employees around the world, we’re working to fulfill Eventerprise’s mission to empower those who lack access to digital resources as the driving force to success in the agile working environment.
Before beginning to craft our program, we first conceptualized a survey that identified the primary needs and obstacles of students who struggle to complete an internship. The primary goal of this survey was to gain knowledge from students, educational institutions, and nonprofits alike regarding what the greatest needs areas were for students as well as weak points of our initiative or parts that may not be completely fleshed out that could be improved to make the program better for students. We were able to engage with leaders from the above three sectors, which helped us craft our program, ultimately with the students’ needs in mind.
“Through an unpaid internship students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not simply “unpaid” but they end up paying for the internship through additional transportation costs, and missing out on the potential to take up a part-time jobs (usually waitressing) to earn some extra money for school supplies. On behalf of a previously disadvantaged South African, these projects often are too expensive for disadvantaged students” – Anonymous survey respondent.
Ninety percent of survey respondents stated that a lack of financial resources was the reason students were unable to complete internships, while 60% noted transport as an obstacle as well. Other problems for students include access to material resources, especially a laptop, internet access, and effective mentoring. Respondents also noted the importance of including tech and software/computer training into the program, while others also suggested including online safety, professional writing, and public speaking. Many also emphasized the importance of giving students real responsibilities and projects, having an open dialogue about potential obstacles like lack of confidence, hard work or dedication to success and of fostering a safe environment. Of the respondents that answered the question, none knew of any companies that were implementing similar social responsibility programs. With the results, we have created a proposal that calls for action on the part of global leaders in tech, business, and social impact alike.
From the survey results, we consolidated the most frequent financial needs, material needs, and psychological needs that students generally require to successfully complete internship programs and gain meaningful experience and knowledge. We fleshed out our HR protocol to be more inclusive of student applicants and extended our Young Gun program to include extra peer support as well as extra attention from Head of Departments and our CEO. Most importantly, we came to the conclusion that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to adopting student Young Guns from diverse backgrounds, which is why we have committed to working with each student and their sponsor to make the experience as enriching as possible.
In order to set up strong partnerships with the public and nonprofit sectors, we conducted meetings with local universities. This will permit us to take on the most talented local students, and act on their greatest areas of need from an educational perspective. Universities are struggling to find internships for students where they do more than make copies or fetch coffee, and with these strong partnerships in place, we hope to offer a solution.
Our Young Gun program and philosophy:
At Eventerprise, our Young Guns aren’t just “interns”, they don’t make coffee, copies, or paper airplanes at their desks out of boredom. Our Young Gun program aims to develop students and recent graduates on both a personal and professional level, equipping them with the necessary digital, business management and leadership skills to be successful in their chosen careers. We assign Young Guns to a specific department, where they work on real business strategies, learn project management, and develop their own solutions to actual company conundrums. Areas include content, sales, digital marketing, design, finance, customer success, law, business analysis, and human resources, among others.
An Entrepreneurial Approach to Social Responsibility
While non-profits can be powerful agents of change, they are often hampered by overhead costs, especially on the African continent. In contrast, private sector entities are results and profit driven, but are often guilty of window dressing without driving meaningful change. In an era where non-profits aspire to run like private sector companies, an entrepreneurial approach to community development has never been more pertinent. That’s why our partnership aims to connect private sector entities to drive positive social change in an accountable manner, in an attempt to address the development plateau that has occurred across the continent, and specifically in South Africa. At Eventerprise, interns work within a real business environment that gives them the tools to succeed in their long-term career ventures
Where we stand today:
We already have qualified candidates who are seeking funding to further their careers and create a better future for themselves and their societies. Now we are seeking sponsors on their behalf, i.e. institutions or individuals who wish to make a difference in the education of people who have all the talent but a lack of resources, preventing access to career-launching work experiences and educational opportunities.
As an early-stage startup, we have the capacities to host these young people, but not the fiscal resources. We are seeking small scholarships on their behalf, from institutions that have the financial means but not the infrastructural means to make such a difference. We know that these young people are driving the future of technology and infrastructural development on the African continent, and an investment in their future goes much further than just benefitting a single individual. We hope that you choose to join us and drive digital and entrepreneurial skill-building in South Africa by investing in the country’s youth through South Africa’s Got Digital Talent.
Help us develop the next generation of digital entrepreneurs.