Woolworths Growth Academy is a trailblazing 12-18 month career development programme aimed at both current employees as well as unemployed and underemployed previously disadvantaged graduates. The programme tackles the shortage of skills that plagues the local retail industry and imparts Woolworths values of quality and style, value, innovation, service, integrity, energy and sustainability. The initiative is benchmarked against the best programmes of its kind in the world. It offers unemployed and underemployed graduates a unique opportunity to work across all departments at Woolworths and earn a post graduate academic qualification from the University of Stellenbosch Business School. Simon Susman, CEO of Woolworths says: “Woolworths has long invested in local talent through a range of learning interventions for our own employees and external candidates. We have, however, grown increasingly concerned about the rate of graduate unemployment and the shortage of specialist skills in the local market. We cannot sit back and wish these problems away. We have done something about it in partnership with the Wholesale and Retail SITA and the University of Stellenbosch.” “Our Growth Academy aims to groom the future leaders of our company and industry and open the door to previously disadvantaged talent in our industry. Woolworths talent development teams have worked closely with leading learning specialists to ensure that the programme offers candidates a deep understanding of our industry and is nothing short of a master class in retail,” adds Susman. The Growth Academy launches with 20 graduates. Candidates were sourced both externally and internally and underwent a rigorous interview process. The second phase of the recruitment is underway. An additional pool of 19 graduates from outside Woolworths will be recruited for this inaugural Growth Academy class. 4 additional graduates will be recruited from Woolworths. Susman says, “We were overwhelmed by the caliber of applicants, but troubled to see how many South African graduates are either unemployed or under-employed. For example, we met a finance graduate who was working part-time in a plant nursery.” Woolworths Growth Academy is co-funded by Woolworths and the Wholesale and Retail SETA. All participants of Woolworths Growth Academy will be paid a salary. The vast majority of the candidates will be employed by Woolworths after their time in the Growth Academy. Joel Dikgole, CEO of the Wholesale and Retail SETA says, “Retail is a key driver of the economy as well as a major employer, but the sector faces a critical shortage of home grown specialist skills. Previously disadvantaged graduates often put themselves through university at great expense but find themselves left in the cold because they lack the relevant work experience. Woolworths Growth Academy proves that public and private partnerships can make a real difference in tackling the challenges posed by our labour force.” “We’re very excited about this project. We’re especially proud because the academic curriculum offered to Growth Academy graduates is the result of a unique collaboration between Woolworths, the SETA and the University of Stellenbosch – a partnership that is unprecedented in its nature. I would like to congratulate Woolworths on the development of this highly innovative programme. I also wish the candidates well,” says Willemiem Law, Managing Executive of the University of Stellenbosch School of Business. Ends For information on how graduates can apply for a place in this year’s Growth Academy class please visit: www.woolworths.co.za