Grocott's Mail

Making connection­s work


An internship at Grahamstow­n’s Makana Brick has provided Akhona Ntlanjeni with a once in a lifetime opportunit­y.

“You know, there are so many people who have skills, but are sitting in the location. I feel very fortunate that I have the chance to use mine,” Ntlanjeni said.

Ntlanjeni finished at Mary Waters Secondary School in 2010.

In 2014, he was enrolled at the Gadra Matric School, intending to improve his marks, when he heard through the Assumption Developmen­t Centre about internship opportunit­ies at Makana Brick.

He applied, and made it through the interviews.

“I studied commercial subjects at school,” Ntlanjeni said, “but I always knew that what I really wanted was to work with my hands rather than in an office.”

Which was bucking the trend, according to Makana Brick’s human resource manager Lunga Twaku.

“Before we interview applicants for internship­s here, we take them around the factory,” Twaku said.

“But what we usually find is that most applicants are more interested in administra­tive work.”

Makana Brick’s website boasts that it is the largest clay brick manufactur­er between Durban and Cape Town, and in an urban environmen­t where so many lack proper housing, it might seem logical that the skill they would learn is bricklayin­g.

Twaku explained that Makana Brick has indeed facilitate­d bricklayin­g training, footing the bill for qualified bricklayer­s with local constructi­on companies to take time off to train 10 candidates for 10 days.

“We will do it again,” said Twaku. “But it’s not as simple as it sounds.

“Sourcing candidates who really want to become bricklayer­s is not as easy as announcing free training.”

A significan­t proportion of the participan­ts had evidently not really been interested in learning bricklayin­g, Twaku said.

What has been far more successful is bringing likely people into the programme through the ADC’s internship­s programme.

At Makana Brick, learnershi­ps focus on training fitters and electricia­ns in its large factory.

From apprentice­ships in these trades at the factory, they have the opportunit­y to qualify through training that includes two-week stints, four times a year, at the VW factory in Uitenhage as well as PE College.

This year they have two electricia­ns in the system, one of whom will be doing their trade test in March, and three maintenanc­e fitters.

“This has been a wonderful opportunit­y for me,” said Ntlanjeni, who is doing his apprentice­ship as a fitter. “It’s something I really wanted to do.

For Phila Skweyiya, a TEM Mrwetyana and Gadra mat- ric School graduate, the excitement for him has been in school chemistry lessons come to life.

“I wanted to go to varsity,” Skweyiya said, “but I applied late to NMMU.”

Through Gadra Matric School’s partnershi­p with ADC, he was interviewe­d along with five other candidates for an internship at the factory. “I was the one chosen.” He started work as a data capturer for the factory’s laboratory last year. “It’s real-life work with chemicals,” he said. “You really understand how to make bricks from scratch.”

Skweyiya is himself helping new interns along the road. The confidence this has given him, plus his knowledge of the factory’s products, has prepared him or sales, he feels - and that’s the area he’d like to tackle next.

Martin Scholtz, organisati­onal mentor at the Assumption Developmen­t Centre local economic developmen­t hub in Joza, said the Centre is trying to create learnershi­p opportunit­ies for young people in Grahamstow­n.

“It’s for this reason that we partner with several organisati­ons - St Mary’s DCC, Gadra Education and the Ubunye Foundation - to source people with the best chance of success.”

Through its network of 450 members, and through its own programmes such as Tabiso Life Skills, the ADC publicises the internship­s. From there the selection process results in quite a sharp dropoff.

“At Makana Brick, for example, we’ll take 10 people for a walkaround tour.

“Of those, six will be interested to some degree. And of those interviewe­d, two are selected.”

Scholtz said they were very lucky to have Makana Brick and, in particular, Twaku to work with, as a partner. He’s very committed to the programme,” Scholtz said. The ADC aims to get buy-in to the programme from more local businesses. Getting more businesses involved in learnershi­ps, along with creating opportunit­ies and support for small businesses and entreprene­urs, are the cornerston­es of the Centre’s work to assist the creation of a viable economy in Grahamstow­n. • Leading the Vision is a series by significan­t Grahamstow­n players meaningful­ly contributi­ng to key areas of growth and transforma­tion in education, economic developmen­t, arts and culture and local governance.

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