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Launch of Mentorship Project

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‘Pilot mentorship program of SA disabled will work if there is chemistry, relationships’

CAPE TOWN. – A ground-breaking pilot mentorship program aimed at increasing the employment rate of people with visual impairments in South Africa with the assistance of researched programs of success in the United States of America, Australia and the United Kingdom, was launched at the Cape Town Society for the Blind (CTSB) on Wednesday.

Its premier aim is to transform the current 20/80-scenario of employment (20% of visually impaired are employed in South Africa; 80 % are not) in the medium term.

“We want to implement a turn-around strategy so that 80 % of blind South Africans are in an occupation which also utilizes their true career interest and gifts,” said Roy Silver, director of Evolve, who will run the pilot mentoring program in association with CTSB.

“How do you make 80 % of the people who are disabled, employed tax-paying citizens instead of recipients of social welfare? The key answer, based on research in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, is relationship or chemistry.

“Why do some mentorship relationships fail and others work? The key contributor is relationships,” said Silver.

Silver added that the probability of increasing the rate of job placement is to pair a mentor with a mentee that possess similar career interests and impairment.
Apart from the obvious goal of finding employment for all ten disabled students within four months, the other goal would be to empower the mentees to become future mentors, Silver said.

The project by Evolve and CTSB, a major hub of empowerment of visually impaired South Africans, will be sponsored by the DG Murray Trust.

Part of the mentor’s responsibility would be to add experience to the book knowledge, share information about the work culture and provide an assessment of the mentee’s job performance.

Michelle Botha, career development specialist at CTSB, said government and the corporate sectors know that employment of people with disabilities has to be done.

“But are they (the government and corporate sector) prepared to think out of the box. What positions are they willing to make available to people with disabilities and at what levels are they willing to employ people with disabilities,” she asked.

Bev Meldrum, an associate at Evolve, said there are different styles of mentorship. One of them, implemented at the AFB Career Connect, is to connect visually impaired people with a business mentor further along the employment journey by means of a digital platform.

Another example from the Australian Network on Disability recruits mentors, who need not be disabled, in companies and connects them with people with disabilities in order for them to job shadow and learn about the business environment.

“We have more than 100 non-governmental organizations in South Africa who focus on the visually impaired populations. If our pilot programme proves to be successful, this could be expanded to be rolled out at other organizations who work with visual impairments. We are very optimistic that we will turn the unemployment ratio completely on its head,” Silver added.


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