Deaf learners celebrate graduation and permanent employment

A joint venture between eDEAF and the Jobs Fund will secure employment for 720 deaf individuals over a three-year period. eDEAF is a deaf-owned company that provides training and employment services with the goal of empowering deaf communities for business.

Through eDEAF, leading retailer Mr Price took on 10 individuals for a 12-month wholesale and retail learnership in September 2018. The course is an NQF Level 2 Certification that comprises a variety of modules focusing on the wholesale and retail environment and a practical workplace training component.

“Each month, the learners completed a week’s theory training, facilitated by a deaf facilitator, and three weeks practical training within Mr Price stores,” says Nicky Bezuidenhout, marketing and communications manager at eDEAF. “They also completed their portfolios of evidence. They were all deemed competent and have been offered permanent positions at Mr Price stores.”

A special graduation ceremony was held for the learners at the Mr Price head office, where each graduate was presented with their certificate of completion. Along with guests, they were treated to delicious snacks and refreshments, and a comical performance by deaf performer and mime artist Sibongeleni Masondo.

“This pilot learnership was a resounding success and we are proud to welcome these graduates into the Mr Price family,” says Audrey Redman, people executive at Mr Price.

Through a partnered solutions approach, eDEAF strives to provide companies with trained and skilled deaf employees who are ready to become part of the mainstream economy. “We are extremely proud to be associated with one of the front-runners in the wholesale and retail industry,” Bezuidenhout says. “We look forward to a continued partnered success with Mr Price.”

Because of language barriers, the deaf community is one of the most marginalised groups in the country. While South African Sign Language (SASL) will soon become the 12th official language, it is not widely used or understood. This communication challenge results in the false perception that deaf people are incompetent, unintelligent or unfit for employment.

“This is far from the truth! Many local companies, like Mr Price, have taken the brave step of employing deaf people with great success, proving that in some career fields the deaf can be just as good as or even better than hearing employees,” says Bezuidenhout.

“We have more than 800 deaf learners in learnerships every year, with an 80 percent retention rate and a 98 percent competency rate at the end of each learnership. And more than 60 percent of our students are finding employment thereafter,” she adds.

“eDEAF, together with its partners, aims to continue to unleash the social and economic empowerment of the deaf community, which will move a previously economically inactive community to one that contributes to the country’s GDP and helps grow South Africa,” Bezuidenhout concludes.

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