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March : A new year with new hopes, thanks to MTO’s Skills Programme

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1 March, 2019

A new year with new hopes, thanks to MTO's Skills Programme

A new year with new hopes, thanks to MTO’s Skills Programme
Fifteen learners from eMbonisweni and Hazyview in the White River region of Mpumalanga recently successfully completed a training course in MTO's Silviculture Forestry Skills Programme, where over three months they were taught the ins and outs of the forestry industry. They were provided with free training and equipment, classroom and practical exposure, as well as a monthly stipend to help support their studies. During the programme, they learned valuable skills not only in silviculture but also in entrepreneurship to start their own businesses or create cooperatives


The end of 2018 marked the start of new opportunities for fifteen learners from eMbonisweni and Hazyview in the White River region of Mpumalanga. They had enrolled in MTO's Silviculture Forestry Skills Programme, where over three months they were taught the ins and outs of the forestry industry, in particular, cultivation and care of trees until those are ready for harvesting.

One of the successful recipients of the programme is Faith Mbali Maseko, age 24:

"Being part of the MTO Silviculture programme was one of the best things to happen to me. I always loved the environment and nature. But attending the skills programme gave me a chance to learn more about forestry, the environment and how to take care of our environment. I love being outdoors and close to nature. It gives me peace of mind. I've fallen in love with forestry and will surely pursue a career in it."

Faith first discovered the programme when she saw a poster advertised at a local shop in eMbonisweni. The opportunity piqued her interest, particularly as she wanted to learn more about forestry. The programme delivered on her expectations:

"I was interested to know what forestry is really about other than planting and harvesting trees. It was great to be outdoors, knowing we can save the environment in more ways than one. We also learned about different plants and their uses."

Nhlanhla Mlombo, 27, another graduate of the programme, was already familiar with forestry as her father works in the industry. It was through him that he heard about this opportunity: "I decided to get involved because I was already absorbed by the beauty and the idea of nature."

Like Faith, Nomfundo Maluka, 24, learned about the programme at her local shopping centre where she could also find the application forms: "I did not consider a career in forestry and I had never been exposed to it before the programme. But as it progressed, I became a lot more interested. I decided to get involved for me to have more knowledge as I live in a place which is surrounded by forests."

Exposure is a key part of MTO's Silviculture Forestry Skills Programme, which targets communities located near MTO's plantations. Often the people who stand to benefit most from forestry activities are unaware of how they can reap those rewards.

"There are many careers that can be followed in forestry, even university studies. But few people are aware of them," said Jabu Kuhlase, MTO White River Training Manager. "We started the programme for two reasons: to expose people to the opportunities available for them in the industry and to help create skills pools and address unemployment."

All fifteen participants successfully completed the course from October to December of last year. They were provided with free training and equipment, classroom and practical exposure, as well as a monthly stipend to help support their studies and daily breakfasts. During the programme, they learned valuable skills not only in silviculture but also in entrepreneurship to start their own businesses or create cooperatives.

"The way we as learners were treated and accommodated by the programme facilitators and the rest of the staff members was very warm and welcoming," said Nomfundo. "I also enjoyed the experience and skills that I got from the programme. It was amazing and made me love forestry more."

Nhlanhla agreed: "We learned the values MTO stand by, and the importance of safety - that it starts with me and the person next to me. I also gained environmental awareness and learned how working in a team helps to achieve greater things."

Of the first group of alumni, several have already been hired by contractors eagerly looking for skilled employees. This includes Nomfundo, who has joined Sizanendaba Co-Op Ltd:

"Although it's not an easy job, I enjoy the exposure and I have developed more love and passion for it through the programme. I am willing to get more skills and maybe one day I will have my own company."

Since hearing of the programme, numerous contractors have contacted MTO and asked for CVs of the learners. A few participants used the momentum from the programme to pursue further studies. The programme participants received internal certificates of completion and will also receive statements of results issued by the FP&M SETA, formally qualifying their skills.

"I'm glad I took part in the skills programme because just after it I got a job with a company in forestry," said Faith. "So, I'm looking forward to learning more on the job, possibly taking more courses to empower myself and gain more knowledge. I see myself as a future forester."

In 2019 the MTO Silviculture Forestry Skills Programme is aiming to educate even more youth from other communities around its White River plantations. There will be more of these type of training opportunities in both Cape and Lowveld in the near future.

"We'd like to see more young people join the program and the workforce of MTO and our contractors," said Kuhlase. "There is so much potential among those young people. They have so much to give and we want more dedicated young people to be part of it."

Matriculants between the ages of 18 and 35 from the White River region can apply for the programme, which is an MTO Cares initiative, sponsored by MTO Group and presented by MTO Training.

A new year with new hopes, thanks to MTO's Skills Programme


Source: MTO Group


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