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Creatively preparing young people for the working world

Giving young people the tools they need to succeed after they leave school takes more than the skills to do a job, but also the ability to cope in the work environment. A significant challenge facing many young people entering the workplace is a lack of ‘work-readiness’, which is their ability to adapt to a professional environment, to communicate effectively, and to work as part of a team.

A fresh approach to a youth development programme is seeing the fun elements of the arts being used to impart essential life skills to disadvantaged youth. The Tsogo Sun Arts Academy’s programme now features an increased focus on job readiness.

Says Shanda Paine, Group CSI Manager for Tsogo Sun, “The focus of the programme has always been to add far more to youngsters’ lives than just learning skills in the performing arts. We re-looked at how we could use all that arts teaches and have enhanced it to have a greater impact on young learners’ futures. Our youth are often hampered in their efforts to join the mainstream of economic growth because of inadequacies in the preparation they are getting to take on their responsibilities as productive members of society in the workplace, and lack of job readiness is a real issue for thousands of youngsters around the country. This revised curriculum of the Tsogo Sun Arts Academy programme aims to address that issue.”

The improved programme, developed and implemented by miniMAX Youth Development, accommodates 150 youngsters from grades 4 to 11, selected from three primary schools and two high schools in disadvantaged areas in the Johannesburg area.

The revised five-stage programme for the Tsogo Sun Arts Academy includes identifying the right participants with a passion for arts and for their future, a week-long boot camp, applying their learnings when they are back in their own environment at home and at school – along with additional coaching and mentoring sessions, recognition of their achievements, and evaluation and assessment of the programme’s efficacy.

At the Tsogo Sun Arts Academy Boot Camp at Blue Hills College in Midrand at the start of the winter school holidays, the 150 learners are being made aware of their own strengths and potential, and how these newly-acquired skills could be the cornerstone in securing a brighter future for themselves. “It’s important that their skill capacity in life and job readiness is built to equip them to return to their schools and effect change as community influencers and leaders,” explains Sunet Wagner, founder and CEO of miniMax.

At the Boot Camp, the learners will be attending sessions in communication, perception and attitude, teamwork and problem solving, networking, and professionalism, with training primarily through the performing arts and adapted to the various age groups.

Collaborations are key to any programme and Tsogo Sun has partnered with miniMAX to drive the programme and initiate collaborations that include Raizcorp, a miniMAX partner and network link to other organisations; and various contributors to the enhancement of the programme.

In addition, an opportunity for an additional 12 Diepsloot youngsters was also created at the Boot Camp through a partnership with Chef Hezron Louw and his food catering company, Sumting Fresh. A food truck is operating at the camp, providing nourishing and tasty meals for the learners and the facilitators, while also providing on-the-job catering training for the 12 high school learners.

Other partners involved in the camp are Spar, which is contributing all the ingredients to the camp menu for all the students; Pick n Pay Woodmead, which is providing personal hygiene items for the girls; Ackermans, providing T-shirts; Sasko, which is providing backpacks and pencil bags with stationery for each learner, bread, pasta and muffin mix, and the SASKO stage for edutainment to the camp; Enterprise Foods and Rhodes Foods, which are both donating food products; Blue Hills College, which is providing the venue; Montecasino and Gold Reef City, as well as being the sponsors, is also providing a range of items to enhance the experience for the participants; and Tsogo Sun staff who are volunteering at the camp.

Greg Segel, Senior Retail Operations Manager, South Rand Division, at the Spar Group, says, “Educate our youth of today and teach them life skills to enable them to take on the world tomorrow. Spar has always believed in being a family-orientated company, and giving to poor communities has always been one of our strong points. We need to invest in our youth so that they one day have the tools to be able to survive in the work environment, be it from putting food on the table, a roof over their heads, and in turn one day bringing their own families into the world. By giving them these tools, it adds positively to the economy, which in turn has a ripple effect in the future.”

Henk Roodt, Regional Sales Manager, and Vashnee Ramnarain, Sales Supervisor at Sasko Olifantsfontein Bakery, say it is a great privilege for Sasko to be able to contribute back into the community, especially towards the development of the youth. “We are firm believers in ‘Life tastes great … share the goodness’.”

Innate Motion, which specialises in humanising brands, is also participating with the ‘Just One Bag’ campaign, where each learner is being sent home with a bag of mealie meal to prepare and share, thus impacting more lives than just their own.

“This new programme is fine-tuned to be results-oriented to meet the needs of the young people with what they need to succeed when they leave school as well as the needs of the employer in the workplace. We have no doubt that the investment by Tsogo Sun and all the other partners into these vulnerable young lives will have a positive impact on their futures, as well as in their communities as they exercise their leadership skills,” adds Paine.

For further information, visit tsogosun.com, follow on Twitter @TsogoSun or on Facebook.com/TsogoSun.