The Chev and Boston City Campus and Business College have teamed up to up-skill members of the Chev’s protected employment
By Chandrea Serebro
There isn’t a parent who doesn’t spend his life trying as best as he can to set his kids up for success in everything that the child will do, from personal to professional and back again. And the best place to start, everyone will agree, is through education. Indeed, our very own Madiba said it best when he acknowledged that education is power. And it is with this in mind that the Chevrah Kadisha teamed up with Boston City Campus and Business College to educate and inspire selected participants of the Chev Services and instil in them not only the idea that they can be a great success, but also the skills with which to achieve it.
“Being an Educational Institution, Boston focuses on giving learners what we like to call ‘a headstart toward their future careers’,” explains Senior Project Manager at Boston, Charlot Breger, who oversaw the project from inception to graduation. And it is with this ethos in mind that Boston set out to better the lives of some of the people from the Chev by offering them a bursary to participate in an educational course, which Boston viewed as “a golden opportunity” to grow and develop people “who had long since given up hope of furthering their education because of expenses”. “The programme was envisioned to up-skill the learners to cope in workplace activities in spite of their various disabilities,” says Charlot.
The chosen learners recently graduated with flying colours from the project, which was a nine-month programme where students were allocated to the Business Administration NQF3 Learnership programme. The learners completed an entrance examination to determine their ability to cope on the programme, in order for learners to reach achievable targets and goals required on the programme. “It was a great honour and privilege to celebrate the graduation of over 40 Kadimah workers who were the beneficiaries of the Boston City Campus Learnership,” says Saul Tomson, CEO of the Chev. Applicants were chosen from among the community, Kadimah, the World of Work programme, and the Junction. “Not everyone was chosen to do the course, and those who were already felt like winners at the outset, having been given the chance to participate in this wonderful opportunity.” The graduates, says Saul, showed “endurance, determination, courage, and tenacity” in completing their challenging course –“they truly demonstrated the power of education, and the power of what lies inside.”
“The objective of the learnership project was to ensure learners are set up for success and not failure,” Charlot says, “and learning is paramount in doing this” – not only to up-skill the learners in the workplace, she says, but to build confidence among the learners as well. It wasn’t a small feat. Learners attended classes twice a week at Our Parents Home, and returned to work at their respective jobs afterwards. In classes, they got busy learning skills that would gear them for the workplace. They learned computer skills; how to monitor and control office supplies utilising relevant systems; telephone skills for working in a Contact Centre receiving inbound and outbound calls; quality assurance knowhow for when submitting relevant assessments; how to use a financial calculator; and other tasks.
They learned so much more than the nitty-gritty of the work itself, and they were also tutored in the more nuanced operations that go on in the workplace, such as the art of working as a team, and using their communication skills to handle and resolve workplace conflict while brainstorming ideas together. “They learned many skills,” says Naomi Schauer, Protected Employment Social Worker – “business, organisational, time-management. But more importantly, they gained so much confidence and just seem to walk taller after every class.” “At a deeper level, the programme really did inspire the learners with a confidence that they never had before, and the learners that graduated, graduated with smiles from ear-to-ear and glowing with pride,” says Charlot. “But even more than what it gave the learners, I myself was inspired. I put my heart and soul into the project, and I found myself rooting for them. I could not for even one moment let any learner be left behind.”
When Ari Katz, CEO of Boston, approached the Chev with the offer of a free Business Admin learnership, Naomi remembers the pure delight at the idea. It presented the Chev with the chance for its people to be developed in a way that was not possible before and, of course, Naomi and her team – under the leadership of Tracy Mayhew, Manager of Protected Employment – could see the potential from the very mention of the idea. A trained social worker, Naomi could also see that every single person who would go on to participate in this project would “literally be changing the lives of so many people who would eventually graduate”, and the chance to do that would be fitting thanks to the generosity and effort that would go into the project.
“We are very grateful to Boston for the learnerships in which they have partnered with us – this being the third learnership programme – and are indebted to them for their remarkable generosity of sponsoring courses and providing prizes for learners, encouraging them to complete their course,” says Saul, referring also to the ways in which everyone involved in the course went above and beyond average expectations to make it really worthwhile for the participants. The programme employed various tools to encourage learners to focus on their goals and on the main prize of completing the programme itself, such as a win-and-spin that was held monthly with t-shirts, bags, and mugs as prizes. Role play was also encouraged on the programme, where learners, working in groups, could test their on-the-ground knowledge at the same time as building confidence and making new friends on the programme, getting rid of social anxiety and putting them at ease with their peers.
Throughout the duration of the course, the work was challenging, and was often laden with anxiety and difficulties that the learners faced which they often thought were insurmountable. “Many of the learners wanted to give up, but they dug deep and showed enormous perseverance, sticking it out right up until the end,” says Charlot, and it was a “great achievement” for the over 40 learners who graduated. The course was not easy and the learners surprised even themselves. Some thought they would fail tests and, instead, ended up getting 90 percent! And, at the same time, they were relating with each other, and even living the life of a varsity student, having a bit of fun learning.
Graduate Harold Joffe thoroughly enjoyed the course, and was given a dose of confidence, “pleased that [he] was able to cope on the course”. Gary Katzel said, “The course built up my confidence within myself, and I am looking forward to the next prospective course with Boston.” Karen Cassingena never thought she would cope on the programme and with the confidence she gained is now able to work in a team, while Georgius Nkomo found the course interesting. The graduates were given the skills and knowledge that they will need to get ahead, the self-assurance to go for it, and the lasting pride at having succeeded in the course itself. “Treat a person as he is and he will remain as he is, treat him as he could be and he will become what he should be,” Naomi said at their graduation. And the graduates can now busy themselves becoming all that they can be.