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Empowering Africa's Youth: The launching of the African Energy Chamber's Energy Pioneers Program (By Leon van der Merwe)

By Leon van der Merwe, EPP Coordinator

The leap from University to the working environment can be somewhat intimidating. The purpose of Academia is not to prepare you with all the skills needed to effectively and efficiently contribute at the workplace. It is, in my view, to assist scholastically in executing practical challenges in your specific profession. 

As a lawyer and part time lecturer, it is my submission that the lack of practical challenges or modules formulated to demonstration “real-world” scenarios are of concern. Time and time again, I have seen how final year students struggle when I task them with practical case studies.

I am not ashamed to admit that the first year or two of commencing employment, it felt like my degree was of no use or purpose! Learning the academics of Law and practicing it are poles apart. What you read about in your academic literature as student suddenly becomes real life situations, loaded with emotions and perils. I was not mentally prepared for the reality of defending a rapist, custody battles or liquidating a 100-year-old family business.

Other skills needed to be a top tier lawyer, engineer, energy expert and many alike, includes administrative, time management, people management, business development and people development skills to name but a few. A lot of these ingredients required, do not form part of your training at University.

Yes, experience comes with practice, but I do believe organisations can do more to reveal to students the actual operations in a specific sector. Specifically, the vast opportunities in the energy sector. Some form of prior practical experience is essential, not only for your personal and professional development, but also to determine if this is a profession and/or an industry you want to dedicate your life to.

I strongly believe that some form of internship programme would have benefited me tremendously. It would have greatly contributed in not only advancing but preparing me for the real-world.

With that said, the African Energy Chamber clearly understand the need and value of internship programmes. They do not only invest in young African professionals but play a crucial role in adding much needed elements in preparing the youth to be the leaders of the future.

It goes without saying that we all have different ambitions and goals in life. My concern is that the so called “big” companies frequently overlook potential interns and candidates who couldn’t afford to obtain their degrees at top ranked international universities. This internship programme will assure that all candidates with the desired qualification will be considered, irrespective of where they obtained their degrees.

The AEC is taking hands with their members, partners and affiliates to support and encourage our youth in their professional development. This is an opportunity that potential candidates must grasp with both hands, as I know I would have.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Energy Chamber.