Corobrik’s dedication to community upliftment and social responsibility prompted its involvement with the I Can! and PMI (Production Management Institute of South Africa) Disability Academy which is empowering 18 individuals with skills in plant production.
“As an organisation, Corobrik has always been committed to assisting the disadvantaged in our society by providing them with the tools to improve their livelihood,” explained Berkley Petty, Corobrik Human Resources Development Manager. “The work by the Disability Academy really caught our attention because it provides a full spectrum of assistance for people with disabilities, including access to education which leads to work opportunities and economic independence.”
Corobrik has sponsored the training of 18 people – nine men and nine women – who reside in the greater Pietermaritzburg area, KwaZulu-Natal. The trainees, aged between 18 and 29 years, are intellectually disabled which makes sourcing suitable employment challenging, particularly as many organisations cannot hire people with disabilities as factory workers, due to stringent health and safety requirements.
The Disability Academy was established to provide an opportunity for youth with disabilities to develop vocational and entrepreneurial skills. The Agricultural learnership, run by the Merrivale Academy, is a one-year Level 1 NQF programme that is fully SETA accredited. Clients sponsoring learners are able to access additional points on their BBBEE scorecard as the learners are employed on a fixed term contract for the duration of the learnership. Although attempts to recruit qualified learners into suitable workplace environments are undertaken by the academy, no employment can be guaranteed because of severely limited job opportunities, particularly for the disabled members of societies.
“The Corobrik-sponsored Agricultural Learnership is extremely comprehensive with the appropriate quality assurance checks in place including external moderation, all of which ensures our learners receive the best level of practical and theoretical training,” explained Rowan Robinson, Business Consultant of Merrivale Academy.
The theoretical training is held at the Merrivale campus with some of the practical activities taking place at the I Can! Farm. The programme consists of four modules including Fundamental Literacy, Plant Production, Agricultural Business and Agricultural Practice. On completion in June, the graduates will have grounding in all aspects of Agricultural Plant Production including knowledge about sowing seeds, soil preparation, harvesting, marketing and sales.
“Although the course focuses on agriculture, we do give solid grounding in a number of life skills as well such as budgeting, public transport and safety,” said Robinson. “We are also extremely strict about workplace discipline, teaching about punctuality, cleanliness, appropriate attire and workplace behaviour.”
The first 10 months of the course are dedicated to theoretical training with learners getting practical experience growing their own vegetables on a plot at the academy. These crops are harvested for their own use and for sale, with guidance in marketing and selling of produce all provided. The remaining two months are dedicated to real-time farm work, with learners getting hands-on experience for life on a farm.
“I’ve been incredibly impressed with the running of this course,” said Petty who keeps in regular contact with the programme organisers. “The learners are trained in a very nurturing environment, allowing them to easily question anything they don’t understand and pick up the required skills needed for course completion. There is definitely a high motivation to succeed and I think the fact that there have been no drop outs is testament to this.”