Woolworths Opens the Door to Industry for Unemployed, Disadvantaged Graduates
Today Woolworths launched its Growth Academy, a trailblazing 12-18 month career development programme aimed at empowering unemployed previously disadvantaged graduates and tackling the significant shortage of skills that plagues the local retail industry.
Woolworths Growth Academy is benchmarked against the best programmes of its kind in the world. It offers unemployed graduates a unique opportunity to work across all departments at Woolworths and earn an executive education certificate from USB Executive Development Ltd (USB-ED) of the public company formed by the University of Stellenbosch Business School to present all the management and leadership certificate programmes.
Simon Susman, CEO of Woolworths says: Woolworths has long invested in local talent through a range of learning interventions for our own employees and external candidates. We have, however, grown increasingly concerned about the rates of graduate unemployment and the shortage of specialist skills in the local market. We cannot sit back and wish these problems away. It is clear these challenges cannot be addressed by government alone.
Our Growth Academy aims to groom the future leaders of our company and industry and open the door to previously disadvantaged talent in our industry. Woolworths talent development teams have worked closely with leading learning specialists to ensure that the programme offers candidates a deep understanding of our industry and is nothing short of a master class in retail adds Susman.
The Growth Academy debuts this year with 22 graduates. Candidates were sourced both externally and internally and underwent a rigorous interview process. The second phase of the recruitment is also underway to recruit and additional pool of graduates with the intention of taking on more unemployed graduates.
Susman says, We were overwhelmed by the calibre of applicants, but troubled to see how many South African graduates are either unemployed or under-employed. For example, we met a finance graduate who was casualling in a plant nursery. While not all Growth Academy graduates will be appropriate for retail, the combination of managerial theory and work experience will prepare them for many other jobs, meeting the country’s need for diverse future leaders.
Woolworths Growth Academy is co-funded by Woolworths and the Wholesale and Retail Seta. All participants of Woolworths Growth Academy programme will be paid a salary. The vast majority of the candidates will be employed by Woolworths after their time in the Growth Academy.
Joel Dikgole, CEO of the SETA, says, Retail is a key driver of the economy as well as a major employer, but the sector faces a critical shortage of home grown specialist skills. Previously disadvantaged graduates often put themselves through university at great expense but find themselves left in the cold because they lack the relevant work experience. Woolworths Growth Academy model proves that public and private partnerships can make a real difference in tackling the challenges posed by the dynamics of our labour force.
We’re very excited about this project. We’re especially proud because the academic curriculum offered to Growth Academy graduates is the result of a unique collaboration between Woolworths, the Wholesale and Retail SETA and our institution – a partnership that is unprecedented in its nature. I would like to congratulate Woolworths on the development of this highly innovative programme. I also wish the candidates well. Says Willemiem Law Managing Executive : Open enrolment programme and marketing of the USB-ED.