Finding work in tricky spaces: Learning from the success of the Aftercare Programme

Staggeringly high unemployment and increasing migration rates have created an environment in South Africa in which xenophobic tendencies can easily dominate the benefits that migration can create. Sensitive to this context, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, an NGO promoting integration within the Western Cape, has developed a specialised project within its Employment Access Programme – and is seeing a near 100% success rate. Understanding the success of the ‘Aftercare Programme’ could lead to the model being used elsewhere.

With an unemployment rate of 26.5% and 60% of the workforce on an average wage of R4,200, South Africa continues to face national challenges of inequality, violence and poverty. These challenges, coupled with increasing levels of migration, mean that successful Livelihood Projects are essential to meaningful development.

Scalabrini is a vibrant hub of different services for migrants, refugees and South Africans in the centre of Cape Town. The Employment Access Programme (EAP) began in 2008 as a service assisting clients – primarily from DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Zimbabwe and South Africa – to write a CV and search online for jobs. Over the years, their programme has carved out a specialised model, responding to the specific context of the clients. The ‘Aftercare Programme’, although intensive in terms of human resources, is proving to be a highly successful model.

If clients using EAP prove to be driven and reliable, they are invited by the team to join the Work Support Group, which serves as a networking platform for clients to not only use Scalabrini services to apply for work but lean on one another to push each other towards employment. During the work support group clients not only learn how to network with one another but also how to drop their CV of in person, phone etiquette and interview skills. Clients can also be sponsored to complete external training, which is decided upon the EAP advisor. Courses usually fall under the hospitality or construction sectors, with courses ranging from baking, waiter, and housekeeper, electrical or even to becoming qualified to work as an artisan on a domestic vessel.

Developing a new model – The Aftercare Programme

Although a classic model for Livelihood Projects, it soon became clear to the EAP team that skills training and the work support group alone do not guarantee employment for the clients. A new strategy had to be developed in order for the clients to succeed within the South African labour market.

In 2016 the Aftercare Programme was crafted for the members of the work support group and those sponsored for external skills training. The Aftercare Programme provides clients with individual support and career guidance in order to achieve this goal.

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‘Many clients lack that family member or friend who motivates and supports them in finding a job’ explains Lylah Monroe, the Skills Training Manager at EAP, ‘and so they lack confidence in securing employment’. Lylah meets one-on-one with Aftercare clients and revises their CV to ensure it is individually tailored to suit a client’s abilities and knowledge. Importantly, time is spent in ensuring that the client is deeply familiar with their CV and is ready to be questioned on it during an interview – an aspect that is often overlooked in large-scale employment assistant programmes. The next one-on-one meeting ensures the client is confident to run specialised online job searches, using specific sites and keywords relevant to their sought profession and needs. Lylah and the client get creative in thinking of other ways to secure work. ‘Last week, we printed one client’s CVs and he dropped them at every single fishing boat in Cape Town harbour’, Lylah exemplifies. ‘Strategies for job-hunting have got to be tailored to the individual in terms of capabilities and the type of jobs they are looking for’. Clients are advised how to best approach the topic of finding work personally – what to say when dropping a CV or how to network within the industry.

A final component to the Aftercare programme is ensuring that the clients are adequately prepared for their interviews. An interview skill packet is introduced, with clients preparing their answers to these questions, which are then presented during a mock trial interview. Clients then receive healthy feedback in order to improve their response.

Stories of success – Zainab, Amuri and Percy

Scalabrini is home to a number of services – such as the Welfare programme and the Women’s Platform. The approach of a ‘one-stop shop’ has the benefit that clients are able to access multiple programmes within Scalabrini and are not forced to visit another centre. Scalabrini has developed an effective referral system, which makes it easy for clients to access all services and receive the best advice possible.

Zainab originally visited the Women’s Platform, which is another development programme at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town as she was looking for assistance to get settled. After establishing that Zainab’s most pressing need was finding employment, she was referred to the Employment Access Programme – a great example of how clients are able to access the many different programmes at Scalabrini simultaneously. It was clear that Zainab’s passion was baking and decorating cakes therefor she was sponsored to take several intense baking courses with the well-known La Petit Patisserie Baking Academy. Following the completion of her baking courses Zainab entered into the Aftercare Programme where she quickly secured work as a baker assistant for a small baker near her home. Zainab did not just stop there and with the encouragement of the Aftercare Programme Zainab began baking her own cakes and selling them to various members of her community!

Amuri initially accessed the Employment Held Desk and after a few months it was clear to EAP management that he was serious about applying for work. Lylah recognized Amuri’s passion and sponsored him for BluBeri Hospitality’s Waitron course. ‘Lylah saw what I could be and motivated me to be better – if people believe in you, you can learn to believe in yourself.’ Within a week Amuri found a waiter position at Mink & Trout in Cape Town and has since been promoted to head waiter.

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Percy had recently finished working as a sales assistant but wanted to find a way to further grow in his field. This is what led Percy to access the Employment Access Programme for guidance and management quickly recognized that Percy should be sponsored for Zetaweb Institute’s Marketing Management course as well as the Work Support Group. Despite the fact that Percy had returned to his old employer he applied what he had learned during his training and networked with a colleague of his, which resulted in him finally receiving the growth he had been searching for all this time. Percy received a position within a large marketing company as a junior sales manager. Through this new job he has been able to receive extra training, a car, a phone and a laptop and travels all over the country!

The key to Aftercare’s success – holistic and personal support

A comprehensive and holistic approach to livelihood, which does not merely equip clients with skills but also with knowledge to utilize it effectively, has proven highly effective throughout its existence at Scalabrini. In its first year, 72 clients benefited from the Aftercare Programme. The success rate of the programme is evidence that the time spent with clients has been extremely effective – 88% reported an income post-aftercare and 100% received at least one interview. The majority of clients secured work within the hospitality/domestic sectors as well as rarer sectors such as the maritime industry and even small business ownership originated in the Aftercare Programme.

The approach of the Employment Access Programme combines three components, which ultimately led to it being one of the most successful programmes at Scalabrini. According to Lylah the most significant reason for its success is the motivational aspect, ‘we really invest a lot of work in getting the clients excited about an opportunity or course – even if it’s not what they had in mind originally – often motivation is the key ingredient for their success.’ Tailoring courses and trainings individually ensures, that the client’s passions and needs are met rather than disregarded in the attempt to provide fast employment. The Employment Access Programme is also wary about the challenges faced specifically by asylum seekers and refugees, according to Lylah ‘many lack the confidence needed to secure employment in a highly competitive market, we try to equip our clients with the support and skills they need to face the South African employment market head-on.’ The last component is the most meaningful for many clients – the personal contact with a staff member throughout months or even years of aftercare. These one-on-one sessions provide clients with reliable and solid support, motivation and the courage to establish themselves in South Africa as employees and employers.

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