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Woodhouse offers a future

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Woodhouse offers a future

Furniture making is taught at the Abenzi Woodhouse in Stutterheim to hard-working youngsters. It gives National Qualification Framework levels one and two training, which includes marketing and sourcing materials.

30 May 2013

ADSabenzi insideYoung people are getting furniture making skills at Abenzi Woodhouse

Young people in the small Eastern Cape town of Stutterheim are getting vital technical and business skills that will boost their chances of employment, and possibly open up doors for them to set up their own businesses.

Abenzi Woodhouse, a section 21 company founded by Amathole Economic Development Agency (Aspire) and Amahlathi Local Municipality, is giving a lifeline to young people in Stutterheim and the neighbouring settlements of Keiskammahoek, Kei Road and Cathcart. It provides training in furniture manufacturing to young men and women, who make furniture on order for local people.

Fondly referred to as the Woodhouse, it is situated on the outskirts of Stutterheim and is part of Aspire’s small town regeneration programme, according to the agency’s project manager, Duduzile Radebe. “The main aim of Abenzi Woodhouse is to develop the forestry value chain and position Stutterheim as a timber processing destination,” she says.

More than 40 young people have enrolled at the centre since the first intake in July 2010, according to centre manager Sandiswa Qayi. “We provide learnerships at various levels at our training centre and mini factory,” she says.

The training centre provides non-accredited National Qualification Framework (NQF) level 1 training as per Department of Labour standards. The course runs for eight months, after which trainees graduate to NQF level 2, an accredited learnership based on practical and theory training and assessment undertaken at the mini factory. Training is provided by the Forestry Industry Education and Training Authority (Fieta).

ADSabenzi insideThe Woodhouse makes furniture for local schools and businesses

To pass level 2, trainees have to undergo 15 weeks of theory studies and a year of practical learning. Assessment is done by Fieta to check practical experience before trainees become accredited cabinet makers. To sharpen their woodworking skills, they produce furniture for sale to households, schools, and offices.

Once they have passed NQF level 2, the accredited cabinet makers have the chance to join the incubation and business cluster phase. Here, they can set up co-operatives or register businesses under the mentorship of the Woodhouse. But first, they must submit a business proposal and three business plans.

Two co-operatives have been registered so far, according to Qayi. “The Woodhouse realised that it will not be adequate to just train the local youth in technical skills and not create opportunities for them to utilise their skill in a way that will maximise the benefits and have significant spill over impact on the lives of other youth of Amahlathi,” she points out. As a result, the Woodhouse has set out to create a business cluster to complement the incubation element, where trainees will be assisted with administrative duties such as ordering raw materials, and procurement of production goods to reduce overheads and operational costs.

Young people are free to join Abenzi Woodhouse as trainees, Qayi says: “Anyone with Grade 10 to Grade 12, or who has basic knowledge to adapt to learn quickly enough is welcome to apply.”

ADSabenzi insideAspire CEO Vanguard Mkosana encourages Woodhouse trainees to work hard

Production manager at the Woodhouse Simba Bopoto says the centre is doing well, and is meeting orders from individuals, companies and schools. The orders are for a variety of items. “We make all kinds of furniture. Some orders, for example cot beds, we make according to customer specifications.”

One trainee, 28-year-old Yolanda Noxeke, has been at the Woodhouse since September 2011. “Before I joined the Woodhouse I was doing some work for the Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately my contract ended and I ended up languishing at home doing nothing. Then I heard from a friend that the Woodhouse was looking for trainees in furniture manufacturing. I jumped at the chance,” she says.

Before she joined the Woodhouse, Noxeke says she was just like most unemployed youth in rural Eastern Cape: bored and with nothing to do. But after enrolling at the centre, she has learned “to work with people – teamwork – and picked up leadership skills … I have also learned marketing, a skill which I will use when I open up my own business after I finishing training.”

Another trainee, Melumzi Skundla, 22, who enrolled at the Woodhouse in the same year, comes from a village called Exesi. He loves “making things with his hands”, he says, and that is why he is doing a course in furniture manufacturing.

“I have also learned quite a lot that will help me in the future in terms of furniture manufacturing, what a production line is and all sorts of manufacturing techniques,” Skundla adds.

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