VAMCOSA, in partnership with D Three - Discover, Develop, Deploy Services - PTY LTD (D3) has established a strong youth development initiative with Fumana Comprehensive High School in Katlehong, on Gauteng’s East Rand. The project aims to identify candidates from underprivileged communities at high school level and provide mentorship through a collaborative relationship with VAMCOSA members, with the view to recruiting the highest performing students into the local manufacturing sector following formal apprenticeship and training.
According to STATS SA, the unemployment rate among South African youth is as high as 60%. While the government has made efforts to establish policies to support youth – most notably the National Youth Policy 2015 to 2020 – unemployment amongst school-leavers seems to be on the increase.  Projects such as ‘Discover Your Career in Valves’ represents a focused and sustainable intervention as it links prospective employers with youth through a direct and mutually beneficial relationship. Unlike many such interventions, ‘Discover Your Career in Valves’ sensitises youth to principles such as supply and demand in labour. Rather than giving young people the false idea that ‘you can become anything you want to’, the project aims to make participants aware of real opportunities in the manufacturing sector and provides them with the guidance needed to develop their skills accordingly. The net result is that the technical students at Fumana Comprehensive High School walk away with a better understanding of their potential career paths.
The ‘Discover Your Career in Valves’ initiative was introduced in October 2014 and is about to see the graduation of its first group of matriculants, who first encountered the project in their Grade 10 year. The project targets students in the Grade 10 to Grade 12 years, once they have selected technical subjects.
On 11 March 2016, project organiser and D-3 founder Lara Slogrove, together with Ross Hunter of RGR Technologies representing VAMCOSA, had the pleasure of handing over personalised dust coats to the student body. The dust coats have been sponsored by various VAMCOSA members and represent a tangible investment in each student.
During the handover ceremony Mr Stanley Tshivhase, director and owner of Duvha Foundries, demonstrated the power of mentorship by addressing the learners. He shared his life story with them, from his humble beginnings as the son of fruit sellers, to the challenges he experienced during his journey through higher learning and eventually his becoming a business owner. Tshivhase emphasised hard work, perseverance and taking advantage of opportunities as key to his success. ‘There is no difference between you and me,’ he explained to students, ‘You have just as much chance of being a boss one day as me. The only thing that matters is how hard you are willing to work.’
Many of the students who are participating in this project have come to realise the opportunity as potentially life changing. Andile Nandel, a grade 10 learner, said of his experience: ‘Becoming an artisan can really change my future. It could make a difference for both me and my family and that means a lot’.
Most impressive is the strong representation of young women in the technical classes at Fumana School. This is backed up by the leadership provided by Thulisile Moreriane, the Mechanical Technology teacher at the school. Moreriane has recently been awarded a certificate of achievement by the Department of Education for the role that she has played in supporting the technical department at Fumana School. ‘The support provided by the mentors who come from VAMCOSA to assist with classes is invaluable’, she states. ‘The students are able to learn the theory from me but they are able to see how that theory can provide them with jobs later through the mentorship of professionals in the field.’
On 18 March 2016, D-3 will roll out their next Career Day, in partnership with VAMCOSA, at Fumana Comprehensive School. The event follows a similar career-fair approach used at institutions of higher education, and Slogrove claims that the event is unique at high school level, as the project provides not only career days but site visits and on-going mentorship throughout the academic year. Most importantly, the event provides the opportunity for learners to interact face-to-face with representatives of many of the industry members of VAMCOSA, solidifying the relationship between stakeholders.
Grade 10 learners Sibongile Raelebe, Avela Sirofu and Sithembiso Makhubo