November 4, 2022

Meet 3 interns from Burundi that are carving out their careers

Burundi’s employment market offers few opportunities for youth and the resulting youth unemployment has become one of the country’s main challenges.

It is particularly unfortunate that open positions are not filled because employers are unable to find a candidate with the right set of skills. Employers often report a lack of technical and professional skills among candidates across all sectors, with some stating that they would employ twice as many people per year if they could find the people with the right skills. These skills are also associated with higher salaries in Burundi’s labour market. 

SPARK and its local partner, Infinity Group, has intiated a Job Readiness Programme as part of SPARK’s Akazi Keza programme. In 2021, 200 youth were selected to participate in general professional skills training given over a period of 4 weeks. High performers were then placed in internships. In total, 114 youth completed an internship of at least 3 months and 19 youth have already been offered a permanent job based on their performance during their internship.

Building on this success, the Job Readiness Programme was extended in 2022, where 281 youth were trained, 68 completed an internship and 60 have already found permanent employment! Meet three of these ambitious and skilled former interns: Gloria, Excellent and Charlène. 


1. Gloria, former intern, now employed at Bancobu Bank

Gloria, former intern, now employed at Bancobu Bank in Burundi © 2022, SPARK

Gloria is a 27-year-old law graduate. Before becoming part of the Job Readiness Programme, she had been unemployed for years. She was determined to do well in the training and seize this unique opportunity to help her find a job. Her motivation made her stand out and she was selected to intern with Infinity Group’s HR team.

“The training and internship were very complementary,” says Gloria. “For instance, the training included a module on professional efficiency. We were taught to prioritise tasks and to organise our working time. During my internship, I was able to implement these teachings. I started every day by deciding on my priorities for the day and establishing a to-do list.”

Being trained in professional efficiency also allowed Gloria to better understand the impact of her tasks on the organisation. “If I did not complete certain tasks on time, then people’s salaries would not be paid on time. I realised I was part of a chain of people and an organisation with a purpose and that motivated me.”

After her internship, Gloria successfully applied for a position at Bancobu, a major bank in Burundi. In her new position, she works in marketing and client relationships for the bank’s new digital product. She has to listen, communicate well and find solutions to problems encountered by clients. “The module on communications that was included in the training serves me every day.” 

Gloria says she started out wanting to find a job, now she wants to build a career. “The training and internship taught me much, but also gave me the confidence to apply [for jobs].”


2. Excellent, former intern, now employed

Excellent, former intern, now employed in Burundi © 2022, SPARK

Excellent is a 26-year-old business administration graduate. Finding a job seemed very daunting as he had no practical experience. For Excellent, the training was a bridge between his education and the professional world, and had a very motivating effect. 

After the training, he was offered the opportunity to intern with Sunstone Beach Resort, a high-end hotel on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. As per the hotel’s established practice, he had to work in every department to get a good understanding of how each department works. “I only stayed two days in the kitchen because it was immediately obvious that I had no talent for it.” However, he did show a gift for client relationships and was offered a position at the hotel’s reception at the end of his internship. Since then, he has continued to evolve and will soon be in charge of reservations.

Excellent found the training he received to be very useful during his internship, in particular the module on communication. The beginning was not always easy, but he says: “frequent and open communication was key to learning fast”.

His ability to learn fast was also appreciated by the hotel’s management. Stanley, the hotel’s manager, shared that recruitment is a difficult exercise. “Internships are a great test to see whether people are a good fit for the job”. He is in favour of hiring a good mix of experienced professionals and young people. “They are enthusiastic, willing to learn and they assimilate quickly.”

Excellent is delighted by his participation in the Job Readiness Programme, which has enabled him to find a permanent job with growth opportunities. He can now provide for himself and can support his parents.


3. Charlène, former intern, now aspiring entrepreneur

Charlène, former intern, now aspiring entrepreneur in Burundi © 2022, SPARK

Charlène is 25 years old and studied business administration. After the training, she interned with Kaz’O’zah Keza, an organisation that trains vulnerable people in artisanal skills and business skills. She became a ‘facilitator’, tasked with helping these people to organise themselves in business groups.

She has now completed a trial period at GROSAUDECO, a financial institution, and is waiting to hear whether she will be offered a permanent position. “The module on stress management was very useful both during my internship and the trial period. It enabled me to tackle tasks out of my comfort zone.” 

Charlène’s internship and her work with young artisans starting their own business have also inspired her. She crafts colourful articles with beads, from handbags to keyrings, and dreams of starting her own business someday. The Job Readiness Programme has convinced her she can do it. “Creating my own business will also enable me to create jobs for other young people.”

Interns Secure Jobs in Burundi © 2022, SPARK

The Job Readiness Programme is also helping to shift people’s perception of internships in Burundi. Gloria says that internships usually consist of observing people at work and taking notes. During her internship in the framework of the Job Readiness Programme, she actually took part in the work. Excellent’s perception of internships has also changed. Before, he thought they were just a tick-the-box exercise. Now, he understands that “they are an opportunity to acquire or further develop important professional skills”. Stanley echoes this vision. “Young people should focus on developing skills first instead of looking for any job. Once you have the skills, many doors will open.” 

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