Addressing the need for skills development
The Access Trust has been operating since 1998 and our mission is to enable capable young people from disadvantaged communities, to access opportunities to gain employable skills, through studying at further education and training colleges in the Western Cape region.
Despite government’s best efforts to develop policies that are geared towards improving the lives of the disadvantaged, for many communities the prospects of improving their lives and family circumstances remains out of reach. Statistics SA reports the national unemployment rate is about 25% for the first quarter of 2012, of which about 70% are youth between the ages 15-24. For many young people getting their matric is one of their greatest achievements as they hope this could be the key to a job or a further education and training opportunity. Their hope starts to fade upon leaving school when the harsh reality hits them that there are very few jobs that thousands are competing for. That first job continues to elude them when they discover they do not have the skills and they need some form of work experience before anyone will consider offering them a job. Many have dreams of finding a job that could break their family cycle of poverty and their aspirations of gaining economic freedom starts to fade very rapidly.
The Access Trust offer capable young people between 18-23, who show potential, an opportunity to access employable skills by providing bursaries to study at a further education and training college. Over the past 14 years we have been able to support over 2000 students. The evidence of the impact is shown by about 70% of our bursars finding jobs on completion of their studies, their letters attest to this impact that has been life changing and/or a saving grace for many on a personal, family and community level. Our intervention addresses the skills development and unemployment challenges faced by young people who become successful bursars. It offers them hope and an opportunity to become economically empowered citizens and become change agents in their communities.
The Access Trust has a proven success track record assisting more than 2000 bursars over the past 14 years and has built a credible reputation in the FET sector. We have shown a consistent success rate of our students achieving a 90% pass rate with about 70% of our bursars finding full time employment on completing of their studies. Key to our success in running the bursary fund is the personal attention given to each person through the student support programme. Each student is visited on campus by our student support officer, giving them an opportunity to discuss their academic, social and economic challenges and/or successes. A helpline is also available for additional assistance, where we are unable to assist referrals are made to relevant professional services.
Bursars are offered workshops that give them the opportunity to gain life skills, through interactive, role-plays and simulations, which will aid them during their studies and in making the transition into the world of work. Final year students are offered a work readiness workshop preparing them with the tools in how to market their skills, the presentation through mock interviews as well as guidance on where and how to look for employment.
The pilot work-placement programme started at the beginning of this year is designed to improve bursars’ employment rates. The objective is to form partnership with business that will become host organisations for internship placements, giving students their first entry into the workplace. To improve our business networks we became a member of the Cape Chamber of Commerce that would open access to potential business partners. We are also looking at strengthening our ties with SETA5 that could further increase our business networks. It is still early days as it takes time to build partner relationships, through these avenues we will identify potential host employers to provide internship opportunities.
We have made good progress in implementing the bursary, student support and life skills programmes. However, the implementation of the newly launched work placement
programme is experiencing some challenges. We connected with about 15 businesses and as much as they are receptive to exploring partnership opportunities with the Access Trust, many are not hiring but are shedding jobs because of the current economic downturn. The speed at which we had hoped to formalise partnership with business as potential host employers are therefore slower than we had anticipated. There has been some progress in Access Trust testing the model and appointing one of our graduates as an intern at the beginning of March 2012. We have developed criteria and guidelines that provide the framework to ensure a positive outcome for both the host organisation and the intern. This process is going well and is continuously being monitored and evaluated.
Over the past five years we have seen the challenges faced by the further education and training sector. The sector has faced constant changes through government policies in its attempt to redress the inequalities in education and to fix the skills shortage conundrum. Industry and education continue to grapple with the skills demands versus supply, in this lies the need for education and business to work in partnership to ensure education supply business with the required skills it demands. The Asset Trust are working towards developing a model that would build the bridge between business and education, whereby business skills demands can be met by education’s skills supply. Int the future, we need to explore the potential host partners skills demands.to inform our process and ensure that we become proactive in our recruitment process to meet the skills that meet business’ required demands. This will ease the process for future bursars and could see a direct transition into future work placement opportunities.
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Tel: 021 671 1521/021 674 0141
Fax: 086 689 0986