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CORPORATE social investment   cont.  
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Some 70% of the shares relating to the Reunert BEE transaction have been placed in a trust set up specifically for the education and training of children in previously disadvantaged communities. It is envisaged that the college will be used as the vehicle to implement the goals of the Rebatona Education Trust.
Recent statistics from the Department of Education confirm that the skills shortage in South Africa, particularly in engineering, has deteriorated further. Meaningful job creation remains an issue, especially since the education system is unable to produce enough students who have passed mathematics and science at secondary level. This is likely to be exacerbated by a curriculum change at secondary-school level in 2008, which inevitably will take time to settle down.

Having evaluated the needs of the group in 1992, and anticipating a shortage of technical skills, the Reunert College was established in 1993. The college provides specialised tuition to students from previously disadvantaged communities to improve their matriculation results for mathematics, science, English and accounting, and possible employment in Reunert companies. Since inception, approximately R20 million has been spent on the Reunert College.

A further 30 students should qualify in 2007, bringing the total number of graduates from the college to nearly 600. The number of bursaries awarded to students to attend tertiary institutions is approaching the 450 mark. Over the years, the pass rate at Reunert College has exceeded 99% and the number of distinctions achieved since 1993 is projected to pass 70 by the end of 2007. In terms of current planning, as many as 30 former students may be placed in either employment or advanced training programmes in the Reunert group in 2008, in addition to 70 former students already working in the group.

Underpinning the success of the college is a solutions-based approach which has evolved over many years. These factors include:
  • a life skills course that enables students from townships to adapt to the business environment;
  • providing ongoing mentorships based on international best practice;
  • initiatives to ensure students understand the concept of competition;
  • equipping students to manage their personal lives and respect business norms; and
  • providing bursaries to attend tertiary institutions.
This all-embracing system — which includes a formal selection process, bridging education, vocational work at company premises, bursaries and mentoring — creates a total solution in which creating employment remains the first objective.

As part of the system, control mechanisms ensure that students are not only employed, but keep their jobs. For this reason, students are drawn close to their prospective employer from a very early stage. This creates loyalty which, together with a reasonable understanding of how to manage a career, has made it possible to reduce labour turnover considerably.

In 2006, an opportunity was identified to provide additional preparatory training to graduates or former students of the college. Marketing and sales training was given to 10 former students, who have all secured employment with Nashua office automation, Nashua Mobile and Nashua Electronics.

The demand for capable call-centre operators in the telecommunications industry has been identified as a significant opportunity for the college and will be pursued in 2008. As a result, a language laboratory has been established and will be tailored to fulfil call-centre requirements. A sound mathematics background, coupled with the ability to communicate with clients in an understandable way, will ensure a solid future for these students.

The empowerment transaction concluded with the Peotona group in 2007 is expected to offer significant benefits for the college. Some 70% of the shares relating to the Reunert BEE transaction have been placed in a trust set up specifically for the education and training of children in previously disadvantaged communities. It is envisaged that the college will be used as the vehicle to implement the goals of the Rebatona Education Trust. Members of Peotona are already playing a key role in the strategic direction and expansion of the college. Due to these efforts, the number of students attending Reunert College should increase in future.

In a further development, the JSE is considering sponsoring 10 students in 2008. We hope the JSE’s participation may expand as our aim ultimately is to get as many companies as possible either to support the college or to form similar institutions in future.

Apart from playing an important role in the group’s employment equity programme, college staff are required to control, implement and monitor skills development programmes in the group. They are also largely responsible for adult basic education and training for employees. The high standard of skills development and training has been maintained throughout the group, with the college principal serving as the group human resources development manager and coordinator of the group training and development forum. During the training year, 2 023 Reunert employees participated in group training programmes. Some 54% of these trainees are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

For a number of years, Reunert College has interacted with disadvantaged schools in the Boksburg and Alberton areas of Gauteng. Further training and education is provided to teachers, particularly those responsible for mathematics, science and English. During 2007, 130 teachers attended the programme.

The college’s groundbreaking work continues to be recognised by the National Board for Further Education and Training as well as the South African Qualifications Authority. The college principal, Marina Gunter, is serving a third term on the National Skills Authority (NSA), the highest authority for skills development in South Africa. She is also a member of the National Board for Further Education and Training, deputy chair of the committee for training and development at Business South Africa, and serves on the CHAMSA committee for training and development. In addition, she is a qualified level-one coach with the International Coach Federation.
Introduced in 2003, the Reunert mentorship programme was again expanded in 2007, enabling more people to benefit from the structured coaching of experienced employees. The aim is to retain and develop high-performing staff, and particularly to attract and retain high-calibre staff from previously disadvantaged communities. The programme assists in integrating new employees, and is instrumental in the development and promotion of existing employees. To date, 267 staff have participated in the programme and four employees in the group are currently receiving formal training as coaches under an internationally accredited programme. A member of the Reunert College successfully completed the intensive coach-training course in 2007. As part of a scientific and integrated approach, both mentors and protégés attend an initial training programme which is the framework for future development. To enable employees to effectively focus on their career goals, the programme concentrates on helping them to understand themselves and their relationships with others. The aim is to coach employees to understand effectiveness in a business context and to improve their skills continually.

As many of these staff members take part in accelerated development programmes, significant emphasis is given to achieving equity with integrity and understanding the correlation between work output and remuneration.

The subsequent achievements of staff who attended the programme are most encouraging, as is their renewed enthusiasm for career development. Equally important, the programme helps retain high levels of skills and enhances productivity and self-esteem.

Two employees identified as having senior executive potential attended a management development programme in 2007.
CORPORATE social investment   cont.  
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