Boland College (BC) has been one of the providers partnering to offer the Youth Focus Programme. The aim of this programme, which was first piloted in 2013, is to offer students who were struggling to advance past grade 9 the opportunity to advance through a bridging programme and funded learnerships. The qualification students obtained after successful completion is a General Education and Training Certificate (GETC): Wholesale and Retail Adult Basic Education and Training (Level 1).

Upon completion of the GETC, the student will then also have a significantly improved possibility of access to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET, formerly FET) Colleges.

According to Mr Wayne Blauw of the Western Cape Education Department, the need for the programme is evident when viewing the amount of students, often multiple repeaters, who fail to complete grade 9 and then often drop out of schooling and struggle to find work.

A study by the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Post-School Studies aimed at determining how the programme was experienced by students and the college and the finding was a positive shift in students’ self-concept.

This project has since been expanded to Level 2 in order to provide successful students the opportunity to further ease access to further education and training, increase employability and hence increase the possibility of turning possible youth at risk to economically contributing members of society.

With TVET (formerly FET) colleges aiming to train for employment, partnerships with industry has become one of the key strategic thrusts to ensure holistic student development. “One of the biggest successes of this programme has been the contract students entered into with Shoprite,” said Rona van der Westhuizen, Senior Manager: Implementation (Occupational Studies) at Boland College. She continued by stating that the unique nature of this intervention is that Shoprite will be taking in the entire group and students will not only sign a learnership agreement, but a complete employment contract for the identified period.

“Students will work at local Shoprite stores and after a specified period they will, if they delivered work of a good standard, choose a department within which they may receive a contract again. They will be appointed permanently and will receive even further training by Shoprite,” said Alta Nel, Programme Manager for Occupational Studies at Boland College.

Wendy Adams, Vice Principal for Innovation and Development at Boland College further added: “It is investment by large corporates such as Shoprite in groups who could be considered youth at risk that will make training programmes such as the Youth Focus Programme an integrated and holistic intervention.” She further expressed her excitement about getting other large corporates on board with such student placement.

“These were students who struggled to advance at school and thought their future was bleak, but today they are excited about their future and career opportunities thanks to their completion of the Wholesale and Retail Level 2 Programme.