(Burson Cohn & Wolfe) Africa has expanded its Starting Blocks internship programme as a virtual offering, allowing the communications agency to use its vast African network and partnerships to leverage expertise to help upskill PR leaders across the continent.
“2020 has given us all the opportunity to pause and reflect, to repurpose and improve on things we have done successfully in the past and to innovate to ensure we deliver on an even-better future,” said Robyn de Villiers, chairperson and CEO of BCW Africa. “The expansion of the BCW Africa Starting Blocks programme across the continent is part of our ongoing commitment to our Africa network partners and to the up-and-coming talent the continent offers.”
It kicked off on 1 October, with 45 participants hailing from 10 countries across the continent – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritius, Eswatini, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco and South Africa.
The programme covers lectures and practical exercises, and teamwork and feedback sessions. All practical work is based on a case study which will allow the interns to see progress using one case through all the different elements they learn. There will also be ‘critical conversations’ with invited leaders. These interactive sessions will allow participants to pose their questions to experts in their fields, who will also share best practice examples and their top tips with the learners. Topics will range from reputation management and communications strategy development to crisis management and digital communication.
“BCW Africa has run Starting Blocks in South Africa for more than 20 years, for final year public relations students from local universities to provide them with practical, on-the-job training combined with a theory programme spanning critical elements of public relations,” De Villiers added. “The programme has been built on a long-standing partnership with South African universities which has ensured that it answers their requirements for final year students who need to complete an internship in order to graduate.
Dr Rene Benecke, Senior lecturer and Work-Integrated Learning Co-ordinator, University of Johannesburg, said the new Starting Blocks programme offered by BCW had taken years to mature into its current form.
“The long-term partnership between the Department of Strategic Communication at UJ and BCW has enabled many young people to reach their dreams of becoming public relations practitioners,” Benecke said. “Their training at BCW complemented their theoretical knowledge and today many hold senior positions in the industry. I know that the new Starting Blocks programme will create many similar opportunities for young people throughout Africa. We are proud to be part of this new programme and wish Robyn, her team and all the young practitioners all the best.”
To date 60 interns have graduated from the Starting Blocks programme in South Africa, many of whom now hold senior agency and corporate positions at global and local organisations, including Ipelegeng (Ipi) Thibedi, CEO of Weber Shandwick’s African operations, Frederic Cornet, Managing Partner, Instinctif Partners Africa, Tintswalo Shikwambane, MAX Project Director at WomanCare Global and Ed Jardim, Group Communications and Investor Executive at Murray & Roberts.
Faculty members from BCW Africa, who are leaders in their fields and are committed to advancing the communications industry across the continent, include:
- Robyn de Villiers, BCW Africa Chair & CEO, and APRA Vice President and Training Chair
- Yomi Badejo Okusanya, CMC Connect BCW Managing Director (Nigeria) and APRA President
- Desiree Gomes, Engage BCW Managing Partner (Kenya) and Vice Chair, Association of Public Relations and Communication Management Firms in Kenya (APReCom)
- Bridget von Holdt, BCW Africa Business Director and ICCO Regional President, Africa