“It gives them exposure to real-life situations, and the impact they can have as professionals with both the soft skills and the hand skills to solve those problems,” says co-founder and co-CEO of BluLever Education Jess Roussos. BluLever is an education partner to Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, part of the Skills for Prosperity South Africa Programme funded by the British High Commission, which aims to skill 200 marginalised young South Africans for income-earning opportunities.
Students spend eight hours on-site for four days, with daily deliverables set by the site supervisor – a qualified plumber or another tradesperson – who oversees and assesses each student’s quality of work.
Work takes place in communities where plumbing infrastructure repair and maintenance is much-needed, says Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator sector lead water and plumbing Sherrie Donaldson. In Diepsloot, a densely-populated township in Johannesburg, students undergo workplace exposure with Water Amenities Sanitation Services Upgrading Programme (WASSUP), a local community-based organisation.
“In many cases, one toilet serves 50 residents,” says qualified plumber and WASSUP co-founder and director Obed Kekae. During one instance of workplace exposure, 39 students helped WASSUP repair 67 toilets. “The response from the community was insane,” says Kekae. “They were happy to have working toilets but more overjoyed that young people were getting an opportunity to work.”
Kekae says determination is so important in the plumbing field. At this very early stage of their possible career, competency isn’t what’s most important in these students – it’s all about their willingness to learn how to do the work. “Within a day or two, you can see the potential of those who are going to be proud plumbers – this experience is so valuable for the young person, and BluLever, to be able to identify if this is the right career path.”
The Skills for Prosperity South Africa Programme prioritises women, which means WASSUP sees women constituting at least half of each workplace exposure group.
Published in Engineering News