Each year the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) advertises it military skills development (MSD) programme and each year the force’s human resources division is swamped by thousands and thousands of applications – all wanting in essence “a job”.
South Africa today is a country where unemployment is, in a word, “rife” and advertised jobs – not even permanent career-type work – see hundreds and in some cases thousands of applications.
The SANDF has enough financial problems of its own and not all can be laid at the door of those working with the military’s money. At least one service deserves a pat on the back for what it does in terms of job creation with little funding.
The SA Navy has for a number of years run a “job shadow” scheme to, on one hand, whittle the number of MSD applications down and on the other, expose the maritime service to and what it does to an audience with a real interest in the subject, rather than people looking for work and not really wanting to put their backs and brains into it.
This is officially known as the Navy’s job shadow in the Western Cape.
Commander Cara Pratten, media officer at Simon’s town Naval Base, said 2017 was the first time a decision was taken to put the job shadow on the Navy website.
“For one, it takes hundreds of phone calls away from me and the people working on job shadow. Then evaluation deals only with written submissions before taking decisions on who will be part of job shadow,” she said.
Grade 11 scholars can apply by submitting a private letter of application signed by parents or a legal guardian as well as a formal letter of application from the student or their school. This must be submitted a minimum of three weeks prior to the visit. Pratten said the letter must have the intended date of the job shadow and area of exposure required. Most importantly, maths and science have to be subjects.
“We also want those seeking the job shadow to give a brief motivation on why they are looking at the Navy as a career,” Pratten said.
Those who make it into the job shadow do not get to go to sea, but have the opportunity to get up close and personal with many other aspects of what makes the maritime service of the SANDF tick.
Around 2 000 people are accepted to take part in the MSD programme every year. The majority usually go to the South African Army.
For instance, last year the SA Army drew 1 558 MSD volunteers. The SA Navy was allocated 293 MSD volunteers and the SA Military Health Service 165.
On completion of basic military training the MSD volunteers receive further training in particular musterings. These range from fire and emergency services through to chefs and other support functions as well as various combat musterings in the landward and maritime arms of service.
On completion of the two-year MSD training period the majority of the volunteers leave and join the Reserve Force with some being offered short-term contracts in the regular force.