Building up young engineering and construction talent
Go for Gold’s education to employment programme in focus29th Jul 2021
Encouraging the youth to commit to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects is a challenge.
This has created a skills shortage, particularly in the technically trained professions. South Africa also struggles with an unemployment crisis where half of young people are unemployed.
One organisation trying to address these problems is non-profit, Go for Gold. Here Karen Rademeyer, Go for Gold’s fundraising and communications manager, chats through what the organisation’s achievements and what the building and construction industry can do to get involved.
Go for Gold was created to address the imbalance of disadvantaged communities entering the construction industry. How are you doing this?
Karen Rademeyer (KR): We were founded by Shaun Webber who at the time was CEO of NMC Construction. He realized that not enough people of colour were joining the construction industry. The problem is that their maths and science was so poor that they didn’t even qualify for the industry.
We help by addressing the maths and science outcomes problem, which is often the result of poor teachings at school. We’ve been recognized by several awards because our programme has so many developmental areas and sustainability goals. We’re also helping to put women in this typically male dominated workplace.
How does the programme work?
KR: During phase one, we recruit from impoverished schools as identified by the Department of Education. We show students all the technical careers on offer via our programme. They apply with their maths and science marks from grade 10 and 11. We then interview and do psychometric tests, to identify candidates that have the technical ability. They get extra maths and science tuition every Saturday to achieve bachelor passes.
In phase two – as students are working for partner companies – Go for Gold gives them leadership development skills training that teaches them how to integrate in the world of work. They learn to deal with difficult work circumstances and how to be an asset to an employer. Our partner companies then use that to identify talent and who to give bursaries to.
Phase three is our tertiary phase. Our students will go to universities, colleges, Technikon or at a learnership at the host company in phase two.
In phase four, we help them secure employment to work back bursaries. They may also help to mentor other Go for Gold students in phases one, two and three.
How many partners do you have, and do they all offer bursaries?
KR: Most partners offer bursaries, and we have 21 active partners. But we need more companies to join and benefit from all four phases or our organization. The beauty about our program is that each of our phases helps the participating company’s BBBEE scorecard and to get more BBBEE points. For example, in phase one they sponsor scholars, in phase two when companies host a student, they get the scorecard points for running internships and learnerships. In phase three they get scorecard points for providing bursaries. In phase four they get retention points.
How are you addressing bursary wastage?
KR: Our four phases help with [reducing] bursary wastage. We have industries and people that want to duplicate our model as a result. They are more than welcome to!
How much do you need to sponsor a student?
KR: We charge companies R25,000 to sponsor a grade 11 and 12 student. The actual cost for whole student development and support costs R40,000 but we charge companies R25,000 to make it more affordable. We’re about 30% funded by industry and for the other 70% I approach private corporate trusts and foundations for funding.
Do you have a goal in mind about how many companies you’d like to get involved in your non-profit?
KR: The more companies that partner with us the better. But we would like to get more construction and manufacturing companies so that we could enroll 1,000 students to join our programme.
What’s the next step for Go for Gold locally and abroad? You have achieved some fund raising in Germany – will you be looking for support in other countries too?
KR: We want to expand to KZN to afford deserving students there some opportunities, but we’d need funding to go and recruit companies and set up.
Germany has been very instrumental in supporting us. Want also to expand to the UK, Australia, and Europe to nurture the development of future South African engineers.