Internships boost opportunity for South Africans

People behind customer-service counter (© Education & Exploration 1/Alamy Stock Photo)
Fortune Magazine recently named Hilton hotels as one of the world's best places to work. (© Education & Exploration 1/Alamy Stock Photo)

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the U.S. State Department is partnering with Hilton hotels to offer South African students paid internships that could lead to long-term employment.

The program, which begins next year, will select roughly 20 interns from among students returning to South Africa after studying in the United States for up to a year as part of the State Department’s Community College Initiative program. The CCI program provides participants from 12 countries, including South Africa, with a one-year non-degree academic program at a U.S. community college.

“In addition to providing skills and development opportunities to CCI alumni, the program will provide a gateway for long-term employment,” the State Department says.

The new partnership will help students from underserved communities by awarding them internships at Hilton, which Fortune Magazine recently named one of the world’s top places to work.

More than 46 percent of 18-34-year-olds in South Africa are unemployed. The South African government is overhauling its higher education system to focus more on vocational training and the community college sector.

The first interns in Hilton’s South African hotels will be selected from recent alumni of the CCI program. CCI offers training in tourism and hospitality management as well as fields including agriculture, engineering, public safety and early childhood education.

“As a leading hospitality company and an employer of hundreds of thousands of team members around the world, we are conscious of the role we can play in helping create better opportunities for young people to enter the workplace,” said Hellen Lebone, a regional human resources director for Hilton. “The CCI program provides an opportunity for us to further support and develop young talents here in South Africa, and we very much look forward to welcoming the first cohort of CCI interns to our hotels across the country in the coming months.”

Hilton plans to expand the program to other parts of Africa. The public-private partnership seeks to provide CCI alumni a bridge to long-term employment in their home countries.

This uniquely American model for workforce development stands in stark contrast to some other countries’ investment models, which employ non-native employees and leave host countries saddled with debt. The United States, the world’s largest provider of foreign aid, works with countries and local communities to establish long-term partnerships rather than debt relationships.

“The collaboration has emerged as a testament to the strength of the U.S.-South African bilateral relationship, demonstrating a joint commitment to supporting and developing rising young leaders,” the State Department says.