Work hard. Make the most of every opportunity. Always have a positive attitude. These are the three attributes that are positioning 21-year old Ashleigh Phillips as an inspiring role model for many of South Africa’s youth. Not only has Ashleigh successfully completed two learnership qualifications, she has used the skills and work experience to land a full-time role with a successful IT business.
While the future looks promising for Ashleigh, this wasn’t always the case. Similar to many young South African’s, she finished matric but studying further was not an option due to limited finances. Determined that she wasn’t going to become another youth unemployment statistic, Ashleigh took her future into her own hands.
“I realised I needed a qualification and work experience so the only option I had was to get into a learnership,” Ashleigh explains.
After a few months and many applications, Ashleigh was accepted for a learnership at EduPower Skills Academy. “I had no idea how much the learnership would change my life.”
Learnerships are 12-month skills development programmes that consist of 30% theoretical training and 70% work-based experience. This deliberate focus on work experience prepares learners for the working world by giving them practical experience and skills.
“I was enrolled for a NQF Level 3 Contact Centre learnership and I was terrified when I learnt I was going to be calling people on the phone. But the EduPower team was very supportive and I really started to look forward to my time in the call centre,” Ashleigh explains.
EduPower’s set-up is unique among local skills development training providers as it has a fully customised 500-seat contact centre that is used exclusively by the learners. The Academy sources live campaigns for its learners so that they gain real experience talking to real people. And as they are hosted under one roof for both the training and the work experience, their learners “work” a regular 5-day work week, eight hours a day.
“Within a few months I had gained experience in different areas of a contact centre – including telesales, quality assurance and data mining. It’s hard to come from school with no knowledge or experience but when I found that I had a knack for talking to people, it did wonders for my confidence,” says Ashleigh.
Mentoring is another important part of a learnership as it helps learners with their professional development. As Ashleigh’s skills and her confidence grew, the EduPower team gave her more responsibility and she was given the opportunity to mentor the new learners entering the Academy.
“This was my first taste of leadership and I loved it. The majority of learners in EduPower are people with disabilities and interacting with them was exceptionally rewarding. It was great to finally believe in myself and realise my place in the working world,” she adds.
Towards the end of her learnership, Ashleigh was given a further opportunity to gain work experience with EduPower’s IT partner, SafriCloud. As she had interacted with some of the company’s team members, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I joined the SafriCloud team more than a year ago and today, I am permanently employed as an IT Administrator. When I started working her I realised how much I had actually learnt through the learnership – and even today, I still use many of these skills,” Ashleigh says.
But Ashleigh is not resting on her laurels. She is currently doing an NQF 5 Economic and Management Science through UNISA and she intends to follow this up with a BComm degree. “I want to progress into business development as I want to build a career in account and project management.”
Asked what advice she would give to young people, Ashleigh says: “Success depends on making the most of every opportunity you have to prove yourself and listening to the advice you get from mentors. But make sure you get a qualification and if you can’t afford to study, a learnership will give you a great start.”