The employment equity and work opportunity targets for people with disabilities should increase to at least seven per cent by 2030 according to the Department of Social Development’s White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Yet, a report by the South African Human Rights Commission titled: Research brief on disability and equality in South Africa suggests that figure might be unattainable. The 2017 report states that in 2005, the public sector set its employment target for people with disabilities at two per cent for that year, more than ten years later this target has still not been met.
As the country observes Deaf Awareness Month this September, Netstar, pioneers in the vehicle tracking and recovery industry in South Africa, demonstrated its commitment to employing people with disabilities. The organisation has employed several hard-of-hearing men and women after a year-long training and development programme. The Business Administration programme was facilitated by iLearn – a national learning solutions company that works together with forward-thinking companies to grow their people and their business.
“All sectors have a role to play here. Employing people with disabilities needs to be a fundamental part of a company’s objectives and high on its list of priorities,” says Richard Rayne, CEO of iLearn.
The NQF Level 3 Learnership programme trained learners on the best way to use the onboard cameras to monitor and report on daily activities, particularly those that relate to the safety and security of drivers, as well as the 350 000 commuters transported every day. This operation forms an integral part of the fleet management systems of one of the country’s largest bus operators.
Netstar’s Group Managing Director, Pierre Bruwer explains that his organisation recognised that for individuals with a sensory impairment, their other sensors are often heightened, more astute and so compensate. In this case, hard-of-hearing people have impeccable visual ability and are naturally perfect for this role.
“We are excited that we’re able to employ all 11 learners from the programme and give them the opportunity to put their training to good use, and in doing so, increase our in-house skills base,” Bruwer says.
The past 12 months have not been without challenges, but that it was all made easier by programme mentor, André Harington. Harington provided the team with training support for the duration of the course.
“The learners exceeded our expectations. I am honoured to have worked with this team, they have truly bloomed and we are all very proud of their accomplishment,” Harington adds.
Janelle Ramsami, one of the recently qualified monitoring agents, says she feels like she has come full circle thanks to the skills development programme and her subsequent employment at Netstar.
“Some people think of deaf people as incapable, but through this programme, we have proven them wrong. We’ve bridged the gap between able and disabled people, and knowing we can make an equal contribution to society is inspiring,” Ramsami says.
The Learnership programme was developed in South Africa as a modern way to advance apprenticeships to meet the modern demands of the workplace. Learnerships also manage to formalise the learning and workplace experience - which is usually sadly lacking in internships offered by companies. Another significant benefit of Learnerships over internships is that Learnerships come with a formal pay structure where learners will be paid a monthly stipend, or payment, for the time they are on the Learnership. Also, internships do not have a learning component, while Learnerships are all linked directly to a formal qualification.