by Tia

As the nation celebrates Youth Day and Youth Month, Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon (WBHO) is proud to highlight its extensive commitment to youth development in South Africa

The construction industry has a pivotal role to play in addressing our country’s youth unemployment crisis. The sector employs one of the highest percentage of unskilled workers of any industry. Its presence in remote areas with high levels of unemployment also positions it as a sector that has a unique responsibility to provide opportunity for the upliftment and employment of youth in these communities .

In the past five years, WBHO has continued its youth upliftment drive to great success. The employment of youth has increased from 34% to 36 % of all employees over the past 5 years. At the heart of this success, is the belief that youth employment should function as a pipeline for talent development and retention. Entry-level unskilled workers are immediately exposed to quality and safety systems, which contribute to ongoing employment opportunities; and wherever possible, employees are given opportunities to further their skills.

The WBHO Youth Initiatives are implemented across a number of fields that include bursaries, mentorships, in-house training, professional development and registration, as well as employee children scholarships.

In the past five years 109 engineering and built environment students have received full bursaries, including accommodation and study materials for their studies. Students that are successful on the bursary programme are employed in the company after completion of their studies. WBHO also has a formal mentorship programme in the fields of engineering and quantity surveying with 120 participants in the last 5 years.

WBHO’s in-house Engineering School programme is widely recognised as a leader in the industry.  Engineering graduates in various company positions are invited to participate in 3 School Levels over a period of 6 years, post-graduation. Participants in the Group assemble from around the country and are exposed to intensive technical modules, written and presented by our top management. These technical sessions are based on over 40 years of experience and comprise all fields within construction.

The Engineering School is also a launch-pad to aid newly qualified engineers and construction management professionals in the detailed process of registering with The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and The South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP).

“As part of WBHO’s commitment to transformation in South Africa, the group continues to implement its Akani Broad-Based Incentive Share Scheme,” explains Wolfgang Neff, CEO of WBHO. “One of the trusts under this scheme is the Akani Defined Beneficiary Trust, which operates specifically to empower black women and youth, with a focus on rural upliftment.” WBHO’s commitment to youth extends to the children of its employees. Over the past 5 years 104 qualifying employees’ children have been given full scholarships in their chosen field of study through the trust.

WBHO recognises that the entrepreneurial spirit of our youth is essential for economic growth, and therefore supports it as a matter of principle, including the Groups Enterprise Development initiatives, where some employees from participating companies are invited to attend the Engineering School.

“On Youth Day one must acknowledge our country’s present challenges, but also its immense promise. Investing in the development and employment of our youth, is a non-negotiable imperative for our future,” said Neff.

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