Corporate girl power
On 25 May 2017, Atlas Copco South Africa afforded nineteen Grade 10 leaners the opportunity to experience first-hand company dynamics, functionality and culture within a corporate working environment as part of the Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work initiative. This was the fourth consecutive year that Atlas Copco has supported this initiative which was first introduced to South African businesses in 2003. “Women are increasingly making their mark as significant contributors to the country’s economy and it is therefore imperative that women are developed and empowered from an early age i.e. at school level,” says Kathryn Coetzer, Corporate Communications and ACademy Manager, Atlas Copco South Africa. “This year we therefore decided to reach out to Grade 10 learners because this is the year when they are making subject choices that will determine their future career paths. It is the perfect time to inspire these young women by providing them with some insight into the corporate environment so that they have a better idea of what the working world has to offer. We are always on the look-out for talent so this also presents an ideal platform for us to build relationships with the learners who are potential interns and employees.” Fastidious in its social responsibility, Atlas Copco believes that focusing on core business is just one of many facets that make for a well-rounded, successful company and the company is committed to giving back to the community within which it operates. With head office located in the industrial hub of Jet Park on Johannesburg’s East Rand, Atlas Copco decided to approach learners from two East Rand-based schools to participate in the Take a Girl Child to Work initiative. The company laid out a jam-packed programme for nine learners from Geluksdal Secondary School in Brakpan and ten learners from Nkumbulo Secondary School in Springs who were joined by their Deputy Principle, Thandi Mkhwane. After an initial meet and greet session, the learners were taken on a tour of the Atlas Copco facility which included a visit to the component workshop. Here, Atlas Copco apprentices, Gloria Mogopodi, a qualified fitter, and Sharon Seleke, who is working towards a mechanical engineering diploma, shared their respective backgrounds and fields of study as well as the scope of their work responsibilities. The tour concluded with a viewing of some of the equipment manufactured by Atlas Copco after which the learners moved to the Atlas Copco ACademy where Kathryn gave a presentation that tapped into a USA initiative – ‘Girls driving for a difference’. Kathryn explains, “When asked what they want to be one day, young ladies often do not know. So, by posing the question differently - ‘what change do you want to see in the world, what social impact do you want to make?’ helps learners frame their career choices in a less intimidating manner, and to link their leadership qualities and strengths to the change they’d like to make.” The learners received guidance on how they can make their mark in the world by identifying and then using their own unique strengths and Kathryn also highlighted the important role of entrepreneurship and helped the learners put together a mission statement. “The message I wanted these young ladies to take away with them was that if you love and respect yourself you will make the most out of whatever life throws at you.” After the lunch break, the learners were addressed by a registered psychologist from The Reality Wellness Group who gave a presentation on healthy lifestyle choices and addressed a number of profound issues including sexual wellness, STDs, teenage pregnancy and HIV. Free wellness tests (HIV, BMI, cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure) were offered to the learners and the day concluded with each of the young ladies receiving a goodie bag filled with female hygiene products. It was extremely rewarding for all the Atlas Copco personnel who were involved in the initiate to see the learners’ enthusiasm and passion and to hear their positive feedback on the programme. Respective learners from Geluksdal and Nkumbulo schools, Afrika Elzoleen and Tsawe Olwethu, both agree that the programme helped them to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Afrika, who is a book worm and has a passion for music, says that “Realising what my strengths and weakness are has empowered me to be a better me. What stood out for me in this programme was the discovery that while we all have similar strengths and weaknesses, we differ in our own unique strengths. Thank you Atlas Copco for opening my eyes to how many experiences are out there - I am ready to take on the world!” Tsawe is a creative young lady who loves photography, art and sport, especially soccer and basketball. “I decided to participate in the programme as I wanted to gain more experience from something I am not familiar with,” says Tsawe. “I discovered what my strengths and weaknesses are and the programme has motivated me not to give up just because of difficult circumstances. I believe I can achieve whatever I want in the coming years.” Thandi, who teaches Tourism at Nkumbulo, joined the learners in order to see what the programme is all about and what it means for the girls. “As these young ladies do not get the opportunity to experience the corporate world, they find it extremely difficult to choose what they want to do with their lives when they leave school. Atlas Copco has given the learners great ideas on career choices and this programme was a life-changing opportunity for them. Gloria was truly inspirational in showing the girls that it is possible for women to be successful in a male dominated field. This illustrates to the young ladies that with hard work and dedication they can achieve anything they set their hearts to. I now have the honour of sharing these experiences with the learners who did not attend the programme.” “While it was a privilege for Atlas Copco to host these young ladies, we believe that in order for the female learners in our country to remain focused on their career choices and to be able to truly make a difference, one day’s exposure to the corporate world is simply not enough. Atlas Copco has accepted this challenge and we have adopted an initiative to build lasting relationships with these young ladies,” concludes Kathryn. Atlas Copco is a world-leading provider of sustainable productivity solutions. The Group serves customers with innovative compressors, vacuum solutions and air treatment systems, construction and mining equipment, power tools and assembly systems. Atlas Copco develops products and services focused on productivity, energy efficiency, safety and ergonomics. The company was founded in 1873, is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has a global reach spanning more than 180 countries. In 2016, Atlas Copco had revenues of BSEK 101 (BEUR 11) and about 45 000 employees. Learn more at www.atlascopco.co.za.