Unemployment and poverty have an immense impact on the Stellenbosch community. A study published by Stellenbosch University’s Department of Sociology in 1995 highlighted the high levels of unemployment in Kayamandi, Cloetesville and Ida’s Valley. To tackle the problem, Stellemploy, a non-profit organisation, was established in 1995 to serve the developing community of Stellenbosch.

We soon realised that young people have an uphill battle to enter the labour market because they do not have market-driven skills. The survey was underpinned by Statistics South Africa’s figures, which showed that only 12,3% of Western Cape residents, 20 years and older, have any post-matric education. The level of education was so low that only 28,2% of the population had secondary education at Grade 10 to 12 level. This is one of the biggest reasons for the high unemployment rate (68,2%) of young people between the ages 18‒35 years, a group that represents an incredible 29,3% of the total population in the Western Cape.

In 1999, we launched our first training programme in gardening skills to provide in the training needs of prospective employees and the needs of prospective employers for trained staff. This was followed by an accredited electrical skills training course. In 2002, Stellemploy opened the Beltana Training Facility and was strategically positioned to become part of the Stellenbosch Municipality’s Integrated Development Programme. This was made possible by funding from the Swiss South African Cooperation Initiative (SSACI) and a site was appropriated by Stellenbosch University. In 2005, Distell made an unused school available to Stellemploy, which was situated on the Groenhof farm just outside Stellenbosch. A grant from SSACI enabled us to develop it into a bigger training facility, which was prepared for the presentation of accredited apprenticeship training programmes in gardening and chef skills. The facility was opened in 2007.

The zeal and passion of our culinary students to become “real chefs” despite their lack of finances, inspired our partnership with the Institute for Cooking (ICA) in 2011. The result was that Stellemploy was invited to register as an ICA satellite campus for the City & Guilds accredited Food Preparation and Cooking Certificate, provided that Stellemploy acquire their own funds. With funding from SSACI and Distell, a pilot programme was launched, during which five students passed with honour and the rest with merit. These students all managed to secure good positions that helped them escape the poverty cycle. The Amicus Trust SA has facilitated a relationship with the AALL Foundation, which has funded this highly successful training programme until 2019. Upon termination of the City & Guilds accreditation programmes, the course’s accreditation was aligned with the Highfield International Diploma Programme.

Stellemploy is grateful for the ongoing support of a wonderful group of donors who make it possible for many young people to escape poverty and become independent contributors to the Stellenbosch community.