Cape Town – 39 previously unemployed and underemployed youths graduated from Woolworths Growth Academy at a special function on the evening of Wednesday, 9 March 2011. Launched in 2010, the project is a 12-18 month career development initiative aimed at previously disadvantaged graduates (internal and external candidates). Those selected for the programme are given the opportunity to earn wide-ranging work experience at Woolworths and an executive education certificate from the highly regarded University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development Ltd (USB-ED). The project is co-funded by Woolworths and the Wholesale and Retail SETA. Growth Academy trainees are mentored by leading industry experts; and are empowered to develop solutions to real-life business challenges. While spending time at Woolies Supply Chain division, trainee Siyabulela Godwana was part of a group, for example, that investigated water conservation opportunities at the retailer’s Montague Gardens Distribution Centre. Siyabulela’s team presented recommendations that included the introduction of water efficient toilet facilities – which the distribution centre is strongly considering. He says: “I was intimidated by the prospect of working across a range of business units. Especially because I didn’t know anything about retail and I had no corporate work experience. However with the help of our mentors and fellow trainees, I ended up thoroughly enjoying my time in the Growth Academy. I’ve grown in confidence as a person and I truly believe I can achieve my career goals. “ A successful debut At the graduation, Woolworths Group Director for Human Resources Matt Keogh praised the quality of the academy’s inaugural class. Chantal Butler Head of Organizational Effectiveness at Woolworths echoed his view: “Woolworths congratulates this Growth Academy class for making the most of this opportunity. You represent a very bright future for South African retail.” Partner pride Joel Dikgole, CEO of the Wholesale and Retail SETA explained that: “This is one of the most successful projects that we have been a part of. The quality of the project coupled with the 95%+ completion rate makes it exceptional. Woolworths Growth Academy proves that public and private partnerships can help to tackle South Africa’s skills shortage. Further we’re very happy with the achievements of the young people here today.” Heilet Bertrand, Executive: University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development Ltd (USB-ED):” Our institution is proud to be associated with this programme. Of course, we’re delighted with the superb performance of this Growth Academy class” says Heilet Bertrand, Executive: Corporate Partnerships, University of Stellenbosch School of Business. Woolworths plans to offer some (if not all) of the candidates selected for the academy, full-time employment. Ends.