Tanzania’s 11% unemployment rate can be very misleading in reflecting the challenges facing today’s university graduates. The marketplace for skilled employees is limited, jobs are concentrated in a few population centers, and the mostly theoretical education system leaves graduates ill-prepared to meet the needs of prospective customers. Even when these young people want to pursue entrepreneurial activities, their lack of practical know-how poses a major impediment.
For years, Global Outreach Tanzania (GOT) has offered internships to local university IT students, to give them hands-on experience and strengthen their resumes for employment. But in 2014 when GOT founder Stan Muessle and wife Betty spent several months in Iringa, they developed a formal program that included opportunities for students in both business and education as well. It accepted students needing to fulfill their university requirement and graduates looking to grow their knowledge and skills.
School Programs Manager James leads a training session.
This is not your typical Tanzanian internship. While universities have looked to these programs for practical experience for years, most sponsoring organizations stick interns in back rooms and let them fend for themselves with little direction and trivial (if any) tasks. GOT, however, seeks to truly mentor, shape and guide them in numerous areas to prepare them for their success.
Students discover the differences quickly. As much as the organization welcomes individuals for internship, they must go through a formal interview before starting, something that most of them do not expect. We want them to think of themselves not as interns, but as employees. They are assigned to team leaders, attend staff meetings, and are expected to meet organizational reporting and performance requirements. GOT engages the individuals in a wide range of activities that build them personally and professionally; they learn teamwork, networking, presentations, business ethics, and other interpersonal skills. Most internships last about two months, but they may be extended if mutually desired by intern and organization.