Vox has announced an extension of its investment into the development of IT support skills for previously disadvantaged disabled learners at the Protea Glen College in Soweto.

The company was the first to roll out fibre-to-the-home infrastructure in this part of South Africa’s largest township.

“Our existing investment into Fibre infrastructure will create a growing requirement for IT support services within the area, and this allows us to contribute to the upliftment of local residents in a sustainable manner.

We worked with Protea Glen College to identify locally-based disabled students, who they can then equip with the skills and knowledge required to take advantage of these opportunities,” says Pam McLeod, Head of HR at Vox.

McLeod adds that student support goes beyond just a financial sponsorship, with a locally-based skills development facilitator from Vox providing students with constant guidance, providing them with support, tracking their academic progress, and interacting with college lecturers to gauge the progress of the project.

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According to McLeod, the project was started in July 2019 with the sponsorship of 18 students, who are now awaiting their SETA accredited qualifications and highly anticipated graduation ceremony. The Protea Glen College was selected as it offered a NQF level 4 qualification in Technical Support, and the ability to train students with disabilities. Due to the positive experience, Vox has continued working with the college, and even upped the student intake to 20, with the current batch set to complete their training in July 2021.

“We looked for positive, motivated individuals who had a keen interest in IT. This initiative helps combat the stigma around disability and the ability of the disabled to carry out jobs to a required standard. This initiative gives them the opportunity they need to rise above their challenges, and build a career in the local IT industry,” says McLeod.

Given that transportation can be a major challenge for disabled people, the initiative looked to source students from within the Protea Glen community, and turned to college students and even civic and religious organisations to identify previously disadvantaged community members, aged between 20 and 35, who could be potential beneficiaries.

Disabilities range from students that are wheelchair-bound to 7 of which are deaf.

They will attend classes around twice a week, depending on their disability needs.

“Having a successful corporate social initiative, especially one related to education, requires more than just money in order to work, and we have taken a far more hands-on approach with this project. We are invested in ensuring these students are given the necessary support they need to pass the technical training course,” says McLeod.

While this project is primarily aimed at developing entrepreneurs in the IT space, Vox is looking at eventually taking on between three and five of these students to join the company’s internship programme, which will give them more exposure and industry experience. The company often hires many of the interns after their internship period is over.

Related: Vox partners with CTU to drive employment opportunity with learners

“We thank Vox for the opportunity they have given us, as well as the community of Protea Glen and surroundings. It has been our greatest honour meeting and working with such a pleasant company and working with people who value our principles (the Batho Bele principles) as much as we do.

They invited us to visit their headquarters with the students and we valued the spirit of Ubuntu which is also a value we live by – umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. We are proud that we are an organisation that not only teaches individuals, but nurtures those that need to be nurtured, and with a company like Vox, says Theo Mtolo, MD at Protea Glen.

 Vox gave Protea Glen College a breakthrough during these times.

“I doubt we could have made it without them, especially during Covid-19 pandemic era.”

McLeod adds that Vox has had a lengthy involvement in corporate social investment initiatives, especially those that are involved with people with disabilities, with one of the other benefactors of the companies spend being eDeaf. Overall, Vox’s investment in these two initiatives has increased from over R700 000 in 2019 to R1.3 million this year.

“We want to have a long-term and sustainable initiative when it comes to empowering and employing disabled people. Projects such as this can provide them with legitimate jobs where they have to interact with, and service our customers just like any other employee, while we as an employer are able to accommodate their disability and related healthcare needs,” says McLeod.