Acquiring skills through work experience and volunteering
How can I acquire skills through an EPWP and how do I find local EPWP opportunities?
The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) is a government programme that provides poverty and income relief through providing temporary paid work for unemployed persons to carry out socially useful activities. EPWP projects employ workers on a temporary or on-going basis either by government or state-owned enterprises, by contractors, or by Non-Profit Organisations. Apart from the income earned, the benefit of these work opportunities is that they are valuable learning experiences that enable people to acquire skills.
Examples of EPWP projects are:
- National Youth Service: This is a year-long skills training and development intervention which aims to provide unemployed youth with technical skills and life skills training, access to practical work experience and mentoring.
- Large projects of more than R30 million: Such projects are based on EPWP principles and ensure meaningful development of emerging contractors.
- Provincial roads: These are labour-intensive programmes for maintaining provincial and rural access roads.
- Home community-based care: Formal or informal caregivers are employed in EPWP projects to provide basic health services to people in their own homes or home-based care facilities close to communities.
- School nutrition programme: The programme employs community members to provide food to children from needy families to address malnutrition.
- Community crime prevention: Community members are employed in EPWP projects to help in identifying community safety priorities for their neighbourhoods.
- Other programmes exist in Waste Management, Tourism and Creative Industries, Parks and Beautification, Coastal Management, and Sustainable Energy.
Some EPWP projects are linked to formal training leading to registered qualifications, for example:
- Vuk’uphile: This involves training people in labour-intensive methods of construction to enable them to become contractors or supervisors.
Where can I find information on EPWP projects in my area?
Many national and provincial government departments and municipalities are involved in EPWP projects listed below. Therefore, it is advisable to contact local government offices or municipalities to find out what projects there are for people from local communities, or to find more information on: http://www.epwp.gov.za/index.html.
- Infrastructure sector: Department of Public Works (DPW) in collaboration with the Departments of Transport, Cooperative Governance, Water Affairs, Mineral Resources, and Energy;
- Non-State sector: Department of Cooperative Governance Community Work Programme and Department of Public Works for Non-Profit Organisations;
- Environment and Culture Sector: National and provincial Departments of Environmental Affairs, Agriculture, Arts and Culture, Energy, Forestry and Fisheries, Mineral Resources, Tourism and Water Affairs, as well as units in municipalities responsible for these areas.
- Social Sector: Department of Social Development is the overall coordinator, assisted by the Departments of Basic Education and Health.
What is the nature and value of on-the-job training?
You can acquire many skills through on-the-job training while working in a community organisation, a co-operative, a small business of a friend or family member, or doing part- or full-time work in a company or government department. Private companies, government departments and other public entities such as ESKOM, Telkom and the Post Office generally provide some form of on-the-job training to develop the skills of their employees to execute work tasks. Much of this training is provided by the employees’ supervisor, or by other employees who are tasked with mentoring or coaching new employees or less experienced colleagues.
The value of on-the-job training
Most on-the-job training is informal so it does not lead to credits for unit standards or qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). However this does not mean that the training has no value; valuable skills are acquired that can be used in the current and other work contexts.
Who can benefit from on-the-job training?
The following people can benefit from on-the-job training:
- Persons employed through permanent or temporary contracts are obvious beneficiaries of this training.
- People working in Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWPs) will generally receive some training that will develop skills in tasks related to EPWP projects, such as construction, community safety, road repairs and school feeding schemes. (EPWP programmes are described separately in this section.)
- People working without payment as volunteers in Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) will generally receive some training on how to perform certain tasks.
All the groups mentioned above should gain maximum benefit from on-the-job training, for example by:
- Actively and attentively participating in all on-the-job training sessions;
- Requesting assistance to improve skills in specific areas;
- Volunteering to do extra work or to work on additional projects through which new skills will be learnt;
- Using the opportunity to develop skills that can be used in other work; and
- Maintaining high standards in work performance and demonstrating willingness to go the extra mile as opposed to refusing to do any work that is not in the job description or allocated task. Such workers are likely to be given more responsibilities through which they can acquire more skills.
What opportunities are there to acquire skills through work-integrated learning?
Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) refers to learning that takes place during the performance of work activities, either during everyday work-related activities (such as cooking or learning how to use new technology) or as an integral part of a formal learning programme leading to a qualification. WIL can take various forms, for example, learning in a simulated environment (such as a workshop at a college that is not in the real workplace), learning through solving a problem, or learning through implementing a project.
Some types of internships provide opportunities for work experience that is not linked to a formal learning programme or a qualification. Such internships are provided by some government departments or public entities, and by Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) such as the SPCA that cares for abandoned and abused animals. Even though these internships are not linked to qualifications or formal training, they provide valuable learning opportunities that should be used to gain work experience. Some are described as ‘workplace-readiness programmes’ for unemployed graduates.
Some types of WIL are funded by Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), although their funding policies differ. Examples of WIL that could be funded by SETAs are:
- The placement of final year students from universities of technology and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in workplaces to gain the compulsory work experience;
- The work experience that young graduates have to acquire in a workplace after completing their qualifications; and
- Work readiness programmes for learners of TVET colleges.
The funding policies of SETAs for WIL differ, so you will need to check the kind of WIL they are supporting on the SETA websites. The list of SETAs will indicate the areas that fall under each SETA, for example, agriculture, construction, finance and manufacturing.
Acquiring skills through volunteering
What are the benefits of volunteering?
Volunteering your services to work for free is a great way to acquire experience and develop skills that will assist you in finding employment in a formal or informal business, or starting your own small business or co-operative. You may even be able to use the skills acquired as a basis for continuing with formal studies at a college or other training institution.
These are some of the direct benefits of volunteering:
- You gain work experience that is required by most employers for appointing employees.
- You acquire computer, administrative and other skills that are essential for working in an organisation or starting your own business or co-operative.
- You acquire technical skills in the core business of the organisation in which you are volunteering, e.g. doing literacy training for adults or providing basic health care to the aged.
- You develop a network of contacts with individuals and organisations that could help by opening doors for you to achieve your career goals.
- You find out what it is like to work in a specific work environment to help you in choosing your career, e.g. find out whether you prefer to work outdoors rather than in an office, or discover that your real interest is working with people rather than with technology.
- Often NGOs appoint volunteers to their permanent or contracted staff when they recognise the commitment and work ethic of the volunteers.
Volunteering in a business as opposed to an NGO has the same benefits. For example, if you love cooking and catering, you could offer your services for free to a local catering company in order to develop an understanding of what this work involves. If you make a valuable contribution to the company, it might employ you, or contract you for paid work at specific catering events, or the company could outsource some of its activities to a small business that you establish.
Who can benefit from volunteering?
Various people can benefit from volunteering, for example:
- Learners who dropped out of school, college or university and those who completed their studies but have not found employment;
- Students who need to complete the practical work experience component of their college or university study as a requirement for the award of their qualifications;
- People who are unemployed or have lost their jobs;
- Youth who have never been employed and who want to gain work experience that will assist them to find employment;
- People who are involved in some form of paid work, but who would like to develop other skills to use in pursuing other work opportunities;
- People who are interested in working in a specific area, e.g. child care, and who wish to gain an understanding of what is involved in working in this area; and
- People who simply want to make a positive contribution to their community or to promote specific causes such as the welfare of animals.
In addition to the skills you acquire, you will gain personal fulfilment from being part of something worthwhile that gives you a sense of purpose for your life.
What types of projects are there where I can volunteer?
Opportunities for volunteering
There are hundreds of churches, community organisations and other Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) that use many volunteers to assist them in caring for people, animals, the environment and many other causes to improve communities, the broader society and the world. They offer different types of opportunities for volunteers: some are ongoing (such as child care), others run for specific periods (e.g. a three-week project to remove invasive plants), while others respond to events (such as the destruction of shacks during a fire). Projects can be local, national or international and can be run by NPOs or sponsored by companies, as part of their involvement in Corporate Social Investment (CSI).
The following are examples of projects where you can volunteer your services:
- Orphans and neglected or abused children who need food, clothing and a caring family;
- Old people who need home-based health care;
- Homeless people and street children who are cared for in shelters;
- Communities that are poverty-stricken and who need a wide range of support;
- Groups who need specialised care and support, e.g. people who suffered from a natural or other type of disaster;
- Abandoned, abused and neglected domestic, farm or wild animals, such as projects to protect rhinos and other endangered species;
- Wild animals and species that need protection, e.g. the rhinos and near extinct bird species; and
- Natural resources that need to be protected.
How do I find organisations where I can volunteer?
The best way to get involved is to find out what projects are run in your own community by NPOs that are active in your community. You should be able to find information from local churches who are always involved in charitable projects. Your local radio station, newspapers, or notice boards in community centres or libraries might also have relevant information. Local offices of government departments or municipalities responsible for social and community development, health, education, environmental protection, etc. should also have information on projects where you could volunteer.
The following websites provide information on volunteering:
- Register of all NPOs (per province) registered with the Department of Social Development: http://www.dsd.gov.za/npo/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=90&Itemid=39,
- Volunteer SA: www.volunteersouthafrica.co.za,
- Connect123: www.connect-123.com,
- Cape Intern: http://www.capeintern.com/organise-your/volunteer-positions/,
- All Africa Volunteers: www.allafricavolunteers.com,
- Global Volunteer work: www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/southafrica,
- Enactus is a non-profit organisation in which university students use entrepreneurial action to improve lives of communities, but you might be able to get involved as a volunteer in Enactus projects in your community: http://www.enactusza.org/, and
- International Student Volunteers is an organisation that provides information on projects in many countries: http://www.isvolunteers.org/destination/south-africa/volunteer-projects.