Tomorrow reimagined

Alex Marais, TVET SA facilitator, relates his first impression of facilitating a learnership programme at TFG’s Prestige Clothing in the rural district of the Overberg in the Western Cape.

The generation shifting the landscape

It’s a wintry morning in a picturesque little rural town in the Western Cape. I find myself in a room, with 33 pairs of eyes flitting about nervously. And there is just a hint of excitement – more apparent in some than in others.

This room, at first glance, is not too different from any other lecture room. But it is oddly quiet for a 12 by 4-meter room with 33 young people in it. However, the electricity is undeniably tangible. The difference here is that this room is situated in the southeast corner of Greenfields TFG’s Prestige Clothing Caledon, a world-class clothing manufacturing facility.

World-class facility in a rural setting

Built in 2016, the Caledon facility produces 3,4 million units per year and employs 580 employees – all of whom call the Caledon district home.

From humble beginnings, where 10 employees were plying their trade in a community hall, TFG’s Prestige Caledon serves as a paradigm-shifting example of what is possible in the CTFL sector.

In line with the ambitions and objectives of the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition’s R-CTFL Master plan, TFG’s Prestige Clothing Caledon reinvigorates the local economy by offering local citizens opportunities for individual growth and development.

Embarking on a learning journey

Back in the room, the 33 pairs of ears hone in on my voice as I present to them a roadmap for their learning journey. During the next 12 months, they will complete an NQF level 2 learnership in Clothing Manufacturing.

I take some time to introduce myself and share a bit of my learning journey. I tell them about TVET SA and our vision to empower learners. And slowly but surely I notice the nervous glances begin to fade. In the place of their initial apprehension, I see clearly what can only be described as the initial stages of awareness. An awareness that there is a chance for more – to be more, to have more, and to do more.

Learning by example

I introduce my colleague, a proud TVET SA graduate, and as she makes mention of that fact, a murmur runs through the class. By now, I’ve made it clear that the spaces we utilize for learning must be cooperative environments. Therefore, we welcome and encourage questions. I remind them of this again. Slowly, the hands go up.
‘Do you mean you did a “facilitation” learnership?’
‘No’ comes the assured answer. ‘I also sat in the same chair, doing a sewing learnership.’

She begins to beguile the class with her experience as a TVET SA learner. And the longer she continues, the more apparent becomes their realisation of countless possibilities on their faces.

Learning is a journey

As the week continues, and the scope of the learnership comes into full view, the excitement continues to grow. Skills development is a critical part of mobilising and empowering local communities. However, sustainable development rests heavily on grasping the longer-term implications and benefits of acquiring these skills. For many of these learners from rural communities, this learnership offers them a rare opportunity to access meaningful employment.

I walk to the whiteboard, green marker in hand. I begin writing. The class falls silent of its own accord, an act that betrays that this group is willing to learn. And the learners are paying attention more and more to what they are told, but also to what they are shown. I draw an organogram, a visual representation of the various departments and positions within the company.

It’s your choice where you go

‘So, we’re going to go there?’ asks a learner pointing to the base of the diagram.

‘That’s where you’ll start, but you will be the one that decides where you will go from there.’

Meaningful employment

Meaningful employment is both a wonderful and complex concept. With the official unemployment rate for people aged 15 – 34 years after the 1st quarter of 2021 at 46,3%, it is evident that our youth faces difficult challenges.

The partnership of TFG’s Prestige Clothing Caledon and TVET SA provides the learners from rural communities a platform for skills development. Equally important, provides the learners with a conceptual framework that enables them to understand the possibilities for growth. That ultimately becomes one of the quintessential drivers and motivational factors for these individuals. It is what provides the why for the how.

Manufacturing their own their futures

As I drive through the rolling green hills, adorned with the radiant yellow swatches of the canola fields, I reminisce about the first few weeks with these learners from the rural town of Caledon.

As I think back on conversations with the learners, I recall the initial apprehension on their young faces.

I see the courage of a young woman, proudly declaring to her classmates that she will use this opportunity to ensure that her young daughter receives every opportunity in life she did not.

And I recollect the respect of a young man honouring his mother’s wish – to remember where he comes from, and to never forget that it is he who is responsible for where he is going.

This generation is waking up to that fact – the fact that they are manufacturing their own futures.  

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