The Go for Gold non-profit organisation established in Cape Town in the Western Cape in 1999 has established a new branch in Johannesburg.
“We are very excited about the fact that we are opening our first branch in Gauteng. So far we have 35 Grade 11 students who have commenced classes. We are looking forward to seeing them through to successful careers in the built environment and technical professions,” Bridget-Ann Mullins, ‘Go for Gold’ Co-Director, says.
The ‘Go for Gold’ initiative was established in 1999 in response to the high level of youth unemployment in South Africa. “One of the things that make us unique is that we were actually started by a company in the construction industry to look at transforming the built environment and technical professions in South Africa,” Woods says.
‘Go for Gold’ has developed a four-phase model aimed at developing future skilled graduate professionals. Phase 1 consists of scholars being transported to a Go for Gold campus to further their studies in mathematics and science in particular. They are also taught computer skills and life skills. This training continues until the end of Grade 12 when all the candidates are interviewed for built environment internships, which comprises Phase 2.
Phase 3 involves attending a tertiary institution, with these studies sponsored by the relevant companies. The final phase is full-time employment in the construction industry. Each phase’s successful candidates become involved in mentoring those candidates in lower phases.
Mullins says that the programme offers comprehensive skills training and development that ultimately results in gainful employment. “As we can well imagine in our own career paths, from high school to university and then onto our first jobs, and then consider how all the gaps and challenges in that process are exacerbated further if you come from a difficult socioeconomic background. Thus we try and address those gaps by working closely with individual candidates and mentoring them constantly along the way.”
Mullins adds that ‘Go for Gold’ is making a significant contribution to inculcating professional skills in the construction industry in South Africa. “The statistics on the number of qualified engineers in South Africa are atrocious. We not only need more engineers, but we also need to foster more engineers from disadvantaged communities in order to be able to impact on youth unemployment and poverty levels.”
The ‘Go for Gold’ programme also provides an opportunity for mathematics and science teachers to brush up on their teaching skills. “Our Saturday classes are open to teachers from the schools we work with. We do share our resources with them as well, so there is a definite spill-over effect,” Mullins says.
Looking at 2015, Mullins reveals that ‘Go for Gold’ aims to consolidate its presence in Gauteng following the establishment of its new branch. “We are piloting in Gauteng and we really want to ensure it works because we believe that, due to its size, Gauteng can be three times as big and successful as the Western Cape.”
‘Go for Gold’ is also working in partnership with another non-profit organisation in Port Elizabeth in order to set up a similar education-to-employment initiative in the Eastern Cape. “That is really exciting as it is the first time we are collaborating in such a joint venture.
“We have also started looking at consulting work to see how we can share our model and our expertise while still remaining true to our core purpose. We want to grow nationally, so that we are able to use this successful education to employment model to influence other industries as well.