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Careers project celebrates 2000th success in South Africa

A Middlesex University project set up to tackle unemployment in Port Elizabeth is celebrating the 2000th participant to secure work or further training and transform their life.

Middlesex University helps give unemployed a boost

A Middlesex University project set up to tackle unemployment in Port Elizabeth is celebrating the 2000th participant to secure work or further training and transform their life.

The education partnership has an impressive success rate of more than 80 per cent of those graduating from its workshops progressing into employment, accredited training or started their own businesses.

Port Elizabeth, one of South Africa's largest cities, has suffered from high unemployment for a long time and unequal access to opportunities.

The project involved local unemployed people receiving employability and computer skills training to help them find permanent employment.  In addition, those that demonstrated flair for business were also provided with workshops in entrepreneurship to help them to develop their own companies.

Middlesex academic Dr Michael Brookes secured funding for the project from the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) after studying the labour markets in South Africa and identifying the failings on both the demand and supply sides of those local labour markets.

Middlesex partnered with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth to look at the needs of local business and build relationships with them.  This enabled them to then create tailored workshops for the unemployed which were delivered by local training foundation Siya-Sebenza.

The initial project, funded by BIS and managed by the British Council, ran for 18 months and saw more than 600 move into work or training from the 700 trained at the one centre.  It also resulted in 65 new businesses being set up, all of which are still running.  The training project is now a permanent initiative and five more training centres have opened, with facilities to help up to 3600 participants.  There are plans for 108 new centres across South Africa by 2015 to help even more communities.

Dr Michael Brookes from Middlesex University's Business School said: "Lack of co-ordination meant that employers were not getting workers with the appropriate skills.  After speaking to the unemployed I realised they did not know how to go about getting a job.  Many come from households with no one in paid employment, but they were eager to learn."

The project's 2000th success is Christina Tshapu who has secured a job as a data capturer for a marketing company in Port Elizabeth.  Some of the wide range of new businesses established as a result of the project include transport services, caterers, a crèche, a fish and chip shop, design businesses and computer repair services.

"From a base of virtually zero, there are now a significant number of employers using our services for recruitment and retention and that will continue to do so.  One of the strengths of these projects is that each new training centre costs less than £3,000 to set up and once it is up and running it is completely self-financing. For approximately £200,000 we can set up a national network that will be able to deliver employability training for around 60,000 job seekers every year which we hope to roll out with more financial support," added Brookes.

Dionne Moseley from Education Partnerships in Africa at the British Council said: "The Education Partnerships in Africa programme (EPA) supported partnerships between further education and higher education institutions in England and Sub-Saharan Africa to develop employability, entrepreneurship and skills for local economies.  With EPA funding Middlesex University achieved good impact for employer engagement and employability training thus helping to secure success for the wider outcomes of the programme."

Photo: Christina Tshapu, the project's 2000th success.

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