SIYABULELA MAKUNGA | Shaping leaders of tomorrow, leaving no-one behind

Commission's cadet programme provides graduates with workplace readiness

Nandi Mokoena
Nandi Mokoena

Just over 24 years ago, Nandi Mokoena walked through the doors of the Competition Commission for the first time, and today she is one of those people playing an important role at the commission by shaping young talent. 

This law graduate from the University of Pretoria had been selected as one of six individuals to join the commission’s inaugural programme for new graduates. Today, Mokoena has played a pivotal role in most divisions of the commission and continues to help shape the careers of the institution’s current talent as the Learning and Development Advisor.

Since that first cohort with Mokoena, the graduate programme has evolved into a biennial 24-month structured pathway for inexperienced graduates to immerse themselves in the world of competition law and economics.

This Youth Month, I want to share how our graduate programme has become a tool designed to provide practical training and workplace readiness to the leaders of tomorrow.

Officially called Cadet Training Programme, this life-changing intervention not only provides the commission an opportunity to provide graduates or “cadets” with workplace experience but also has strategic significance in ensuring that we are able to replenish our talent pool with young professionals who have applied experience in fields that include competition law, economic research and communication.

Over the two-year programme, each candidate will be placed in a rotation providing them with hands-on experience in the commission’s divisions, and just like Mokoena two decades ago, an opportunity to engage with real-life cases building their skill set as they gain experience. Along each step cadets receive guidance from mentors and technical coaches who include current staff members that first joined the commission as cadets themselves. 

In April this year, we welcomed 17 new cadets, and the diverse backgrounds, knowledge and fresh perspectives of this cohort are just what the commission needs to ensure it remains a leader in the world of competition law.

How did we recruit these cadets?

The commission has a close relationship with several tertiary institutions and as per tradition, in 2023 we embarked on an extensive search for top-ranking graduates to apply to the training programme. Through our strategic mix of campus outreach initiatives and a social media campaign, the commission sought a diverse applicant pool including encouraging applications from tertiary institutions in marginalised areas of the country.

The overwhelming response necessitated a rigorous selection process, and our Human Capital team designed an interview process that would not only allow the interview panel to determine the applicants who would be the best fit for the commission, but also an experience or “boot camp” that would equip the top 50 candidates with workplace readiness skills which they could use even if their journeys with the commission were not meant to be as cadets.

The boot camp concept was developed after feedback from previous shortlisted applicants and the commission’s commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all applicants. The boot camp assisted the shortlisted applicants in bridging the gap between academia and the professional world of work, equipping them with essential skills such as financial planning, problem-solving and interview preparation that they could employ throughout their careers.

For many shortlisted candidates, the boot camp was more than just a chance at securing employment with the commission. From maiden flights to expanding their professional network and preparing them for other job opportunities, the boot camp proved to be an empowering skills development platform for all shortlisted applicants. 

Our interview panel included senior leaders within the commission and staff who had been cadets at the start of their careers. The panel undoubtedly had great difficulty in selecting the top applicants but our steadfast commitment to nurturing talent and fostering inclusivity enabled our team to select the best cohort for the 2024 cadet intake.

The cadets were on-boarded through a two-week induction programme to aid in familiarising the cadets with how the different divisions in the commission work and where they are likely to plug in. 

For our next intake for the Cadet Training Programme, earmarked for 2026, our team is already immersed in planning its outreach to students and building relationships with tertiary institutions across the country. Commemorating the Youth Month, the commission’s cadet programme remains a beacon of opportunity and training for graduates as they enter the world of work.

And in many years later, former cadets like Mokoena are still contributing to shaping of the country’s economic landscape. We are poised to continue playing a role in shaping the future of SA’s graduates, one cadet at a time, we want to leave no-one behind.

* Makunga is spokesperson for the Competition Commission of SA

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