Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Opportunity mediation services | 15 August, 2013 - 12:00← BACK
Conventional wisdom tells us that if you finish high school, get a job and get married before having children you have a good chance of avoiding the poverty trap. Conventional wisdom or not, practically in South Africa it is certainly not the truth. At Learn to Earn we have an opportunity to work with people whose lives didn’t necessarily turn out like this and who are in need of a life change and a career change. Fortunately the vision that’s been serving us over the past 23 years still works. Our vision is to assist in the eradication of unemployment and other legacies of injustice in South Africa. One of these injustices is the negative effect on black schooling – and the resultant poor school systems, inadequate management and low teacher quality. At Learn to Earn we give students from previously disadvantaged schools the opportunity to learn differently. We encourage engagement, research, reflection, and give exposure to the workplace. In many ways, this prepares them for the world of work.
As a Placement Officer at Learn to Earn, I have seen how our course offerings, and the dedicated process of following up on each student have helped people change their lives. I have witnessed how our graduates are becoming economically active and how they are able to improve their lives and that of their family members.
I have also witnessed a number of issues of concern. Our student profile, for example, is complex. It became clear that we needed to break it down into various levels so as to understand students and their needs more effectively.
Student classification system
In order to better understand our students and their needs we decided to break down the student profile into various categories. We can then use these categories to appropriately assist students with their needs. Currently this process is still being developed but we are sharing our working draft of the student profile categories in this learning brief.
How we help our diverse students
HELP STUDENTS IDENTIFY THEIR SKILLS
During the Learn to Earn course offering we have realised that many students are scared to approach potential employers because they don’t feel they have any skills to offer. We decided to address this problem by helping them recognise their skills; identify and express their abilities and strengths; and become aware of their positive and negative traits. We thus introduced a participatory interview class. Everyone is given a template on which to record their past work experiences (e.g. security guarding, housekeeping, waitressing, etc.). Then, in class, we collectively identify the skills they gained in each job and list these. This simple activity has helped students recognise the skills and talents they do have, and it empowers them in the job interview process.
HELP STUDENTS KNOW WHAT THEY WANT AND WHAT THEY CAN REALISTICALLY ACHIEVE WITH THESE SKILLS
When individuals first come to Learn to Earn they often have very little understanding of their own capabilities and they lack confidence. More importantly, they also have little idea of what kinds of skills they can acquire through our program and how this will help them find a job (or even what kind of job they could realistically find with this skill). So, many come with misunderstanding, misinformation, and unrealistic expectations. In order to address these expectations we introduced a Structured Orientation program at the recruitment phase. During the Structured Orientation they learn about our program’s goals and purpose, the rules and regulations, the benefits and opportunities, and their responsibilities as students. In addition, we discuss why we request certain things from them and give them opportunities to ask questions, and to get to know their campus peers and trainers. After these sessions students can freely choose to opt out of the program.
HELP UNIQUE STUDENTS LEARN IN UNIQUE WAYS
At Learn to Earn we know that our students are all unique and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching and training is not appropriate. Our diversity of students means that their experiences and personal circumstance differ. Accordingly, we try to plan and deliver courses and activities that increase the chances of all our students finding future employment. We cater for each student in our program and tailor our efforts to their needs.
HELP STUDENT GET WORK EXPERIENCE
We are dedicated to helping students get work experience. As students and staff we work together to find information on jobs, to call and research different companies, and to expose students to different kinds of job opportunities. We require all courses offerings to have experimental work opportunities such as internships, job shadowing, workplace visits, volunteering, guest lecturing, etc. In this way we can encourage greater employer engagement with our students.
New initiatives to date
Strategies taking place right now
We aim to link our students to other organisations for further training. This will increase opportunities and possibilities for them and will assist in closing the unemployment gap. In the Bake for Profit course students had difficulties sustaining their small businesses so they indicated to us that they would like to be considered for job opportunities or other opportunities. We had to make it clear to students that sometimes it is not possible to go from being a student to getting a job immediately but that there are other avenues we can explore.
Other initiatives we will be undertaking in the future”
30 Sixwayikati Street, Ilitha Park, Khayelitsha
(021) 136 5972
In this learning brief Learn to Earn’s Placement Officer shares lessons on how the organisation has developed a student classification system. This is used to help the organisation tailor its services to uniquely prepare different kinds of students for the job market.