Youth graduates looking for a strong start to their careers have received a major boost to their careers through the YES4Youth Bridgestone Southern Africa (BSAF) Graduate Training Programme.
Bridgestone initiated its participation in the public sector-run YES4Youth Development Programme last year, placing 38 youth with degrees and diplomas in a variety of functions, such as sales, information technology, finance, procurement, and engineering. This year, the company increased its intake to just over 70 graduates offering a comprehensive, real-world experience and knowledge beginning in May 2021.
“We successfully retained five graduates into full-time employment, which is satisfying considering the current economic climate and the impact on their careers and their families,” says Botaki Hlalele, Bridgestone Southern Africa’s Head of Talent Development and Training Academy. “This is especially important as a huge portion of our youth in South Africa are unemployed, even within the ranks of tertiary graduates. The experience each of the participants has gained will equip them to be able to grow in the industry and workplace in general due to the highly competitive environment they would have been exposed to.”
The YES4Youth 12-month quality work experience gives unemployed youth a high-impact first chance at work, equipping them with a toolkit to launch them into the industry of their choice. Over the 12-month period, BSAF has committed to providing a stipend to each participant while they receive on-the-job training in meaningful and relevant tasks.
Each graduate is paired with a mentor, a business leader who can guide them through the challenging learning curve and fast-paced environment.
The company provides the candidates with a smart phone that is linked to the powerful YES Youth App. The platform contains valuable communication resources, including a newsletter, emailers, text, chat, and accredited course work. Surveys and detailed progress reports allow participants to gain a clear understanding of success areas, as well as those that need more attention.
“We wanted to ensure that the programme would be even more impactful this year and placed an even greater emphasis on workplace readiness, in-depth experience in functional areas and exposure across the entire organisation, rather than just their departments,” Botaki says.
Each of the candidates receives a six-month progress report, an indicator of the programme’s effectiveness. They are also given access to the BSAF group employee assistance programme, which provides psychological support, education support and legal advice.
During Youth Month, Bridgestone also hosted a Youth Knowledge Exchange event where executives were able to engage directly with graduates, listening to their challenges and offering relevant guidance. This event was attended by 100 people, including graduates, executives and select staff members.
Galaletsang Thage, a 27-year-old human resources graduate and native of Brits, where Bridgestone’s manufacturing facility is based, joined the programme in June 2020, having previously worked in a government hospital’s human resources function. She reflects on the steep learning curve.
“When I came into the human resources office at the Brits manufacturing plant, I was struck by the pace and intensity of the work compared to my previous environment, which was more laid back,” she says. “I had to work much faster and assert myself, especially as a woman in a male-dominated environment. Now, I am a lot more comfortable with the workload and feel confident that I will be able to ascend being an HR business partner in the coming years as I complete my law degree.”
Olebogeng Mokgabudi, a 25-year-old former engineering student from Rustenburg is also taking on the human resources path, based on the experience in the company since joining the programme in May last year.
“I am really inspired by the team here and received incredible support from management,” she says. “My tenure has been extended until the end of the year after completing the first 12-month programme, and I wish to grow in industrial relations, which is more in line with my personality.”
Mathapelo Motaung, from Rustenburg is a 24-year-old BCom Marketing graduate and joined the programme in June last year, based in the Retail business, mainly working on the Supa Quick brand.
“I appreciate the fact that I was allowed to be very hands-on, working on marketing projects and helping to develop creative artwork, as well as a variety of vital marketing functions alongside more experienced team members,” she says. “I was recently given my own project from start to finish, which was very exciting for me, being someone just starting off in my career. The tyre industry is an amazing place to learn, and women can definitely find it to be an exciting space to grow and develop, professionally and personally.”
Nkateko Mabaso, a 23-year-old Economics and Econometrics graduate from the University of Johannesburg, was also inducted into the programme in May last, and has grown working in the company’s pricing division.
“The work we do in pricing involves highly technical analysis of costing and economic factors, which allow us to pricing products that go onto the market,” he says. “The programme has given me very relevant skills that I wouldn’t have had access to in the classroom, like deep knowledge of the tyre industry. It has also developed me in other areas, especially in presenting, as I had to conduct a lot of presentations during the pandemic. Now, I am confident presenting from a much more expanded knowledge base.”