CORPORATE social responsibility initiatives are often motivated by necessity rather than choice, but Vix South Africa has achieved unprecedented results with its learnership programme – to the extent that it chose to extend the year-long programme by a couple of months.
The organisation ran its programme through the Media, Information and Communication Technology Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA), taking on 15 learners in a programme combining a syllabus covered by an external, accredited training authority along with hands-on, workplace instruction at Vix South Africa.
SETA criteria stipulate that participating companies provide permanent employment for half of the learners who graduate from a course, but the exceptional performance of its debut group of learners has seen Vix South Africa extend employment offers to well over half of its graduates. It is also seeking to place the remaining graduates with transport operators.
“The SETA requires a certain amount of content to be covered, which the external trainer does, then the rest is done by us in our field,” says Vix South Africa’s CEO Tjaart Kruger. “Fifteen learners came in for a work-based education and training programme that’s linked to a qualification which is registered on the national qualification framework.”
The intake included learners ranging from 19 to 30, with an average age of 24, drawn from diverse backgrounds. While one was a petrol attendant, one worked for Makro, one had trained as a nurse and one came from an agricultural background, Kruger says that what they had in common was that very few had any grounding in technology.
Six months of training was devoted to a curriculum encompassing basic fault finding and repairs; basics of quality control; customer service; electronic test equipment; introduction to automatic fare collection, bus operations, electronic components, project planning and safety; key account management; on-board bus equipment; project finances; route analysis; SLA management, reporting and analysis; and testing of equipment.
After that, learners were put into a workshop environment, where they were taught to dismantle, reassemble and fix ticketing machines.
Once those skills had been mastered, learners – on a rotational basis – went on-site, where Vix South Africa has technicians based in depots.
Women comprised more than half the intake – and turned out to be the star performers in the workshop, says Kruger. The course was not confined to technical content, but exposed learners to various facets of the business. Learners turned their hand to marketing tasks, assisting with stock and stores, as well as assisting in manning the helpdesk and generating analysis and reports. Having embarked on the course with zero Excel experience, for instance, a couple of learners have been deployed in bureau services assisting with report analysis.
Experience has shown that CSI projects that take in huge numbers of learners annually with the guarantee of employment on completion can experience a massive fallout rate. “All 15 of our learners have completed the programme and done well,” notes Kruger. “They’ve been assessed by Vix South Africa, by the SETA, by the external training authority and by clients where they’ve been sent on-site.”
It’s been interesting to observe that some learners have excelled in the theory portion of the course but taken some time to translate that knowledge into a workshop environment, while some who lagged in theory subsequently shone in a workshop setting. The women, in particular, had excelled in hands-on workshop tasks.
Kruger says that the experience has been heartwarming. “Our philosophy was that they had to be acceptable at the theoretical and practical components, but that if they had the right attitude, they’d be successful. It’s been amazing.
“Our operations manager also quickly saw, from a productivity point of view, what he could do with 15 extra sets of hands. That’s one of the reasons they’ve done so well: in a short time they were brought up to speed and started working. Over and above learning the technical skills, they’ve actually been working. All of them say that they have come away with improved communication skills and improved confidence.”
Kruger says that in collaboration with the learners, Vix SA has received suggestions for improvements for the next iteration of the course, ranging from providing dedicated training facilities, to fully equipped toolboxes for delegates. “We’ve also learned a lot in the process – and it’s exposed us to young, enthusiastic people who are eager to learn.
“We’ve been humbled by these passionate young people who have displayed extraordinary levels of energy, commitment and dedication throughout the 15-month programme. We’re confident that we’ve achieved our objective of creating a pool of skilled technical people from previously disadvantaged communities. We’ve empowered 15 youngsters who are now enabled to break into a highly competitive sector and who now, more importantly, are able to return to their communities and uplift from within,” concludes Kruger.
Class of 2017: back row, from left: Sharon Malope, Bongani Sithole, Boitumelo Makaleng, Lebogang Mangena, Kgopotso Boshomane, Walter Tshabalala, Vhahngwele Sigari and front, from left: Motlalepule Mohloki, Kopano Mbula, Sindisiwe Zulu, Kelebogile Mosala, Khangwelo Munasi, Simphiwe Masuluke
Vix learners: Tshiamo Mabula (standing, back) with (standing, middle row, from left) Sindisiwe Zulu, Kelebogile Mosala, Simphiwe Masuluke and Legohang Sibiya and (seated, front, from left) Sharon Molopa, Motlalepule Mohloki and Kopano Mbula
Motlalepule Mohloki and Kopano Mbula
Vix South Africa learners Simphiwe Masuluke and Kopano Mbula (standing, from left) and (front, from left) Sharon Malope, Lebogang Mangena and Motlalepule Mohloki