Enterprising School Leavers

Enterprising School Leavers
Learning Brief

New Beginnings Development Centre

Successful strategies for placing students in job-training opportunities

Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Opportunity mediation services | 26 June, 2014 - 17:50


Project context

In 2012 New Beginnings launched it Office Administration course as an addition to its existing curriculum. The course module follows the SETA requirements of combining 30% classroom training with 70% on the job training in the relevant industry. Finding host companies and organisations that will provide on the job training to our students has proved to be very difficult. In this learning brief we discuss how we have managed to find solutions to this challenge.

Challenges finding job-training placements

The in-service, on-the-job training is a vital component of our Office Administration course, but it is not easy finding job placements for our students.  We started by contacting most of the larger companies in our surrounding areas.  Many of them are well established but would not take our trainees. They gave many reasons, such as:

  • Not having enough space or equipment for an extra person;
  • Internal documentation is confidential and un-contracted workers can’t go through these files;
  • Not having the time or personnel available to mentor the student;
  • Internships and job-training placements involve too much red-tape;
  • Management does not support this kind of training venture. 

Advocating for on-the-job training

We recognise that these are legitimate concerns for companies, and we spend much time advocating in support of free, on-the-job training in order to help companies think through these concerns. Such advocacy is time consuming but vital because we believe that providing opportunities for job-skills training is a core aspect of corporate social responsibility.

Lessons to share: success strategies

Despite the challenges listed above we managed to place 12 of our Admin Course students. A HUGE thanks to those companies and organisations that supported our students!  We remain encouraged to know that there are organisations out there that will take on trainees. 

Our advice for others facing the same predicament is that as a course manager it is your job to advocate for the job-placement programme. So “tell everyone you know” that your students need placement opportunities, and tell them why this is beneficial to all parties. 

  • Broaden your acquaintance networks. People that you’re acquainted with know other people that you don’t, so spread the message by word of mouth. This increases the chance that someone will hear of your trainee programme and agree to take on one of the students. Attend network forums, SETA meetings, other NGO network meetings etc. in order to meet new people in your sector.
  • Market the best-case stories. Ask companies that support your students to share how the trainee programme has benefited them. Ask them to share what you are doing. Personal networks, and personal stories have a greater impact than hearing information from a stranger.
  • Have a quick, interesting pitch ready at all times. Remember that you are often pitching your job-placement trainee programme to people who are very busy. They will lose interest quickly if you do not grab their attention immediately – i.e. by the second line of your introduction. This is especially true if you communicate by email. Do not send lengthy emails. Here are seven ideas to get people to open your emails:

1. Personalize: Use something relevant to the reader to grab attention.
2. Be interesting: Make your subject line oddly long or short or different. Make it interesting so people open the message in the first place.
3. Be fresh: Don’t say “update” or “news” each time.
4. Be brief: Put key information right up front since subject lines get cut off.
5. Instil urgency: Make it clear why your email matters now—”three days left to give”.
6. Banish ‘spaminess’: avoid all caps and shun exclamation points.
7. Create wonderful content and reflect it in the subject line.

  • Maintain your networks with a personal touch. We maintain our employee and trainee networks by hosting occasional network breakfasts.  We invite companies that are not supporting us to a breakfast with our students and with company heads who are affiliated with us. We share information about the project, have students speak about what the training experience has meant to them; and have our affiliate employees speak about how they have been able to assist students. 
  • Make sure that your students are well prepared for their job-placements. Your programme’s success depends on training people to be vital assets in the job market. The in class room training and evaluations need to be good quality so that students can cope in the work setting, and can reflect favourably on your programme. This will keep the door open for you to send out other students in the future.

Below is a snippet from one of our successful trainees that found a job-trainee placement at Eskom.

Student case study

One of our students who benefitted from this the combined classroom and on-the-job training experience was Una Martin. She agreed to describe her experiences with this process.

“My practical, on the job experiences were wonderful!!  As a Frailcare student I completed practicals at two different institutions, i.e. Huis De La Bat Old Age Home and also at the Eersteriver Hospital.  Apart from my class training, I had no actual experience in the field so I was a bit nervous.  The hands on experience and real life situations have instilled in me the belief that I can overcome any obstacle faced I am with.  I enjoyed relating to real patients and being in these situations made me feel that I could be relied upon.  There is no doubt that my classroom training prepared me for what was to come but I would not have gained the knowledge and experience I did if I was not exposed to the environment.  For my Admin course I was placed at Eskom and once again this was initially a very daunting experience.  I had never worked in an office or even been exposed to the corporate working environment.  At Eskom I was exposed to different admin functions, including the switchboard.  After being trained for just one day, the operator was absent the next day and I was told to answer the board……I can’t even describe how I felt.  Needless to say I was very excited to “go to work” everyday.  I am now volunteering at New Beginnings as an administrator and I am thoroughly enjoying the continued exposure to the Admin field.”


In this Learning Brief we outlined the challenges faced in finding job-training placements for their students. Then we listed seven strategic solutions for getting employers to host job trainees enrolled in our office administration course. This means the training staff must actively advocate for the importance of job placement to as many people as possible, and must ensure that the students are adequately prepared for the work environment. Hopefully other training organisations will find these suggestions useful in helping to place their students in the workplace.

PO Box 10101 Belhar Ext 7 Cape Town Western Cape South Africa

 +27 021- 952 9801


In Short

This learning brief profiles seven strategies for getting employers to host job trainees enrolled in the New Beginnings office administration course. Other training organisations will find these suggestions useful in helping to place their own students in the workplace.

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