With one in four South Africans unemployed, people with disabilities often stand even less of a chance of finding a job. Netcare, a leading South African private healthcare provider, is addressing this issue through its Sinako programme, which offers learnership opportunities to young members of the community and Netcare employees with disabilities.
Speaking at the recent graduation of the first intake of these trainees, Ms Veliswa Baduza, director general at the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, praised Netcare for demonstrating best practice and good corporate citizenship in this arena, saying, “Netcare has shown this leadership by reaching the national target that government has set for companies: to employ 2% of people with disabilities in their total staff complement. Most companies are currently failing to meet the 2% target, so Netcare is providing them with a roadmap that includes using learnerships as part of an organisation’s recruitment strategy.”
Through the Sinako project, the trainees enrolled for NQF-registered programmes, either in business administration NQF 4, as a basic and post-basic pharmacist assistant, or in professional cookery. The latter was offered in partnership with the South African Chefs’ Association.
According to Dr Richard Friedland, group chief executive officer of Netcare, the Sinako project was introduced to assist individuals with disabilities who had not completed Grade 12, or did not have a post-Grade 12 qualification, to become more employable. “Young persons with disabilities often don’t complete their studies due to a number of limiting factors such as the costs involved or transport difficulties. The learnerships provide these individuals with technical skills and experiential learning required to be employable in the labour market,” he adds.
The business administration and professional cookery learnership programmes are carried out over a year whereas the pharmacist assistant learnership programme runs over two years. Netcare aims to offer positions to learners who successfully complete their learnership. “Of the 50 learners who enrolled for our first learnership programme under the Sinako project in 2012, 35 were unemployed youth and most of them have already been offered permanent employment by Netcare,” observes Nceba Ndzwayiba, Netcare’s transformation manager.
“Due to the success of the 2012 Sinako project, we are extending this year’s programme to include internships for students with a disability who may have a degree or diploma in human resources, financial management, accounting, economics, administration, pharmacy and nursing,” announced Ndzwayiba.
“Higher learning institutions are producing graduates with disabilities but they often struggle to find jobs due to a lack of work experience. The Netcare internship programme aims to bridge this gap and enables line managers within Netcare to draw from this pool to fill vacancies that arise,” says Ndzwayiba.
In 2013, Netcare is offering 73 learnerships and internships to people with disabilities. Within a day of advertising the programme, Netcare received over 2 000 applications. Sixty-eight new recruits commenced their duties in August, with the balance to start shortly.
“Offering such a programme requires a mind shift; we should acknowledge people with disabilities for their capabilities rather than focusing on their challenges. The intervention requires a thorough analysis and elimination of organisational, environmental and attitudinal barriers that may restrict those with disabilities and deny their right to enjoy equal access to opportunities and benefits in the workplace,” Ndzwayiba notes. “As a starting point we should ask ourselves what modification or adjustment to a job or to the working environment we need to make to enable a person with a disability to have access to, or participate in, employment with us,” he adds.
“The youth are our future and we are committed to making a meaningful contribution to the development of young people in South Africa, inclusive of those with disabilities. We are pleased that we are making progress towards our goal of increasing the number of permanent employees with disabilities to 4% of our more than 20 000 strong workforce by 2015. This figure is currently at 2.25%,” says Dr Friedland.
“We at Netcare are sincerely appreciative of the support we have enjoyed from the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, the Ministry of Labour, and the Office of the Premier of Gauteng in our efforts to create an inclusive, demographically representative workforce,” concludes Dr Friedland.