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By Citizen Reporter


Bridging the gap in youth education

The importance of education is further illustrated by the community initiatives Ford undertakes with the aim of empowering young South Africans.

Sometimes a truth is repeated so often it appears to lose its power and needs a signal booster.

One such truth is Nelson Mandela’s immortal quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

It’s all the more poignant that the icon of liberation was born to illiterate parents. He would later become the first black student at the University of the Witwatersrand and thus began his enduring quest for both knowledge and justice.

Why is this of interest or importance?

For one, it illustrates the importance of lifelong learning. As I near the end of a 31-year career, my thoughts linger on that.

Many business brands support aspects of education and Ford does so in a number of ways. These include paid tuition for employees wishing to further their studies, as well as bursaries for dependants of its employees.

The importance of education is further illustrated by the community initiatives Ford undertakes with the aim of empowering young South Africans.

In fact, education is one of the key criteria used to assess community initiatives. Building classrooms, donating school shoes and school bags, participating in Rally to Read, Enactus and the Youth Development Programme, are examples that come to mind.

This year, Ford also launched its Youth Development Programme, which provides sponsorship to about 70 students for the duration of their studies, covering tuition, books, accommodation and food.

They will do vacation work to enable them to get to know Ford better, giving them a taste of what Ford has to offer in terms of further development and

a career.

These students are guaranteed a position on the Young Professionals Development Programme upon successful completion of their studies.

They are also guaranteed workplace experience. Through this programme, we’ve created a pipeline of the best and most promising students to help address SA’s skills shortage.

Initiatives like this are components of a framework to ensure education creates an upward spiral of socioeconomic development in SA.

The programme for newly qualified graduates helps provide invaluable workplace experience which is the key to them being able to find employment.

The programme started just over 30 years ago, with 15 students, which has grown to 70.

It’s evolved from a one-year workplace experience programme to an intensive three-year programme that helps bridge the gap between tertiary education and the world of work.

Each graduate has a development plan in place and completes two or three short courses through Wits Business School per year, focusing on business skills such as project management, business communication, systems thinking and emotional intelligence.

A successful partnership with Digital Campus supports the development of the graduates by providing this critical skills training. Graduates make use of the Ford Bursary Programme to further their studies with honours or masters degrees.

Graduates are encouraged to apply for vacancies where they meet the requirements.

A high number of them are appointed at Ford on a salary, hourly wage or contract basis.

Even if they’re not appointed at Ford, the skills they acquire through the programme will stand them in good stead .

Some particularly notable graduates include Neale Hill, president of Ford Africa.

South Africa is known for its poverty, inequality and unemployment: the latter is a rolling tragedy, with an education system that partly works and partly doesn’t.

Strides are being made, but we have a long way to go.

Ongoing education is indisputably part of the immediate and long-term solution and Ford is proud to be able to make a positive contribution in that regard.

We know education is the foundation to success and economic freedom.

Ford supports the youth of our country and in so doing contributes towards the prosperity of our country.

It makes me proud to be part of an organisation that makes a real difference in the lives of ordinary people.

As my career draws to a close, I’m reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Swanepoel is talent manager at Ford

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