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Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 08:05
Work ethic

Tracker's Men in the Making campaign is calling on businesses across the country to invite boys from grades 10 -12 into their offices and lives, for job shadowing and life mentoring activities.
Tracker launched its campaign five years ago, and is supported by the Department of Basic Education, Shout SA and Metro FM. It recently held a ‘career day’ on 25th April 2013.
The aim of the campaign is to help teenage boys understand the value of their education, to challenge them to overcome their obstacles and to work towards becoming productive adult citizens of our country. It offers a chance for one-on-one interaction with a business leader, providing first-hand experience and insight into career and business opportunities. In countries such as the UK and the USA, mentoring is an important tool used to aid troubled youth that face challenges in avoiding the cycle of offence, prison time and re-offence.
In South Africa, however, the practical scope of formal mentorship programmes is far wider. Poor education levels, sub-standard social services, widespread teen pregnancies and drug and alcohol abuse are just some of the social realities that see our new generations trapped in a cycle of despair. Mentoring offers an important way to intervene in this social cycle, which at times looks too ominous even to think of broaching. For example:
Statistics SA figures for the third quarter of 2012 show that 71% of SA's unemployed are aged 25-34; and,
The unemployment rate among SA youth is 36% (the proportion of male unemployed youth has ranged from 41% - 54% between 1998 and 2009, and about 3,3 million youth aged 15-34 are not employed or studying;

The Annual Surveys for Ordinary Schools for 2009-2010, found that:
In 2009, about 109 pupils fell pregnant in Grade 3 alone — up from 17 in the same grade in 2008;
In Grade 4, the number increased to 107 from 67 in 2008, and in Grade 5, 297 girls fell pregnant in 2009; and,
The highest concentration of pregnant pupils was found in high schools from Grade 7 to 9. In 2009, 45,276 girls fell pregnant.

“One of the most complicated aspects of South Africa at the moment is the way all our social issues relate to one another,” says Tshego Bokaba, Tracker CSI Manager. “It's very difficult to separate gender violence from drug abuse, poor education and general unemployment. But when you take a broad view, it's clear that many of our youth lack a general frame of reference and experience. It's very hard to make positive life decisions when you can't even picture the basic outline of positive adult life.”
Men in the Making is a full experience for everyone involved. The boys arrive at the company, have breakfast and are welcomed. The session includes thoughts from the CEO and other speakers. Depending on the programme put together by the organisation, they might watch a few videos and also hear from career guidance experts.
“After the introductions they shadow someone on the job,” explains Bokaba. “This involves spending a few hours with a person whose career they believe they might want to follow. Each participating company structures their programme how they see fit, and sometimes they are asked to incorporate a theme. This year the theme was ‘Gender based violence’.”
At the broadest level, Men in the Making is a practical intervention designed to create a practical bridge between South Africa's social aspirations and its very challenging daily reality.
A recent article by prominent writer Johnny Steinberg, entitled, ‘When a McJob is worse than no work at all’, illustrates the importance of guidance and life advice as our young adults make their way in the world. In his article Steinberg points out that for many of our youth a low paying job is viewed with disdain because of its misalignment with the individual's larger life aspirations.
“Many working people understand that a low paying job can offer important opportunities for growth and development. Even though the job itself may not be what you want for your life, it can offer a way to get closer to your dream,” says Bokaba. “This is the sort of advice and life context that working adults are able to offer our youth, based on their own lives and experience. In many respects these are the critical, yet subtle, messages our society seems to be lacking.
“Yes, young men are key players in our society when it comes to crime, gender violence and so forth,” adds Bokaba. “But it's not realistic to throw words at our youth about how they should live. Our challenge as a country is to create a framework for learning. If we want our young men to act as responsible participants in society, then we need to expose them to role models and career paths, and an aspirational life context. It's this experience that will guide their decision making in that crucial time when they are making their way in the world.”
In addition to creating opportunities for young South African boys and young men to experience a workplace environment, the Tracker campaign also seeks to expose ordinary South Africans to the importance of working hand in hand with our youth. “As a company that fights crime on a daily basis in South Africa, we feel we have an important responsibility within our society,” says Bokaba.
“That responsibility does not just involve working with youth – it also involves creating opportunities for interaction and action across South African society as a whole. One of the joys of watching the campaign grow, year on year, is the opportunities it opens up for South Africans from all walks of life. When a young man visits a company and shadows a mentor, it's not only he that benefits: it's also a vital opportunity for the business person to stay connected to his or her society. When it comes to tackling massive issues like gender violence, we believe this connectivity will play a vital role.”

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:26.7 1st July, 2013
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