Kuruman residents Victor Tshekedi and Mathapelo Seichokelo both live with disabilities. Consequently, they have found it impossible to obtain ongoing work – and up until six months ago, they had both given up hope of ever being able to support themselves or their families.

However, all of that changed as a result of an innovative learnership solution provided by EduPower Skills Academy for Assmang Manganese Black Rock Mine, and the lives of these two individuals and 38 others living with disabilities have been transformed.

A paraplegic since the age of 5 when he fell from a donkey cart, Victor says there are simply no opportunities for locals in the mining town. “We are the most forgotten society in South Africa.”

 

Mathapelo agrees and had given up looking for employment. A bilateral amputee who lost both her legs when she was injured in a car accident, she says that while her family have been very supportive, it was hard on all of them when she couldn’t find work. “Sitting at home with no income is very difficult and it makes you depressed and stressed. I have qualifications in Ancillary Nursing and a Management Assistant NQF Level 5, but when I applied for jobs, I would go for interviews without any success. I didn’t think I would ever work again.”

The Assmang learnerships, however, have forever changed their fortunes along with those of 38 others. Victor and Mathapelo were part of an intake of 40 learners who were selected for an innovative, forward-thinking learnership programme. This bespoke solution has been developed by EduPower for the mining company in support of its efforts to use its Community Development contribution to generate meaningful job creation and socio-economic advancement in the region.

In August of last year, Edupower – working together with Assmang and the community – opened a training facility equipped with classrooms and a contact centre in Kuruman. The group of learners, all of whom are people with disabilities, are now more than six months into their Contact Centre NQF Level 3 learnership. However, what sets this model apart is that at the end of the programme, all the learners are guaranteed full-time employment as contact centre agents.

“This learnership will change my life because it will enable me to get long-term employment,” says Victor. “I am learning so much and I will use this to help grow the organisation I am currently involved with.” He adds that he has learnt many new practical skills, but his communication and listening skills have improved the most. He has also enjoyed learning how to solve customer problems, analyse data and resolve conflict.

Mathapelo says that she applied for the learnership, as she saw it as an opportunity to learn new skills, particularly about contact centre operations. Now halfway through the programme, she says she looks forward to the practical experience every day, as it gives her the opportunity to apply her mind in the workplace.

“The new skills that I am learning are giving me the ability to go into several different fields. Because of this, I have succeeded in moving forward,” says Mataphelo. “EduPower and Assmang have given me the strength and hope to get out there and find employment – and I am very grateful.”

Based on the growth already displayed by this first group of learners – including the new skills that are being developed – there are exciting times ahead for the Kuruman community. The pilot is proving so successful that the partnership between EduPower and Assmang looks certain to provide many more opportunities for young adults in the area.

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