Intern; Retail; South Africa; Graduate placement; Career advancement; Skills development


        This paper presents an investigation into internships in South Africa’s retail sector. The research questions it seeks to answer are: (i) What are the benefits (strengths) of this sector-sponsored internship programme (ii) What are its limitations (weaknesses), and (iii) What changes, if any, can be recommended to improve the programme? The methodology used was a case study of a retail sector internship, with data gathered via a survey of 12 retail firms, two focus groups of 15 interns, and four depth interviews with retail managers who had previously been interns. The study found that the programme is very beneficial to the participants, as they get exposure to real work opportunities and the previously disadvantaged are empowered with requisite skills for the sector, assisting with career advancement and upward mobility. This was despite the weaknesses of an inadequate stipend for interns and inefficiencies in the internship administration.

        This paper has confirmed that the retail internship is achieving the expected benefits, but highlights some critical aspects needed for future success. Further, it has provided knowledge in an under-researched area, namely internships in the retail sector. These findings could be beneficial for other sectors.

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