Retail graduates weather storms for a bright future

15/11/2019

Graduates learn critical skills through Professional Retail Internship

WORK READY: Professional Retail Programme graduates share the graduation stage with the MRP Foundation team and retail industry representatives at the Blue Waters Hotel in Durban. The intense ten month internship upskills unemployed graduates for career opportunities in retail and supply chain organisations. Image: MRP Foundation / Pierre Tostee

“Congratulations to our graduates who have really weathered the storm of the Professional Retail Programme. This internship has been tough, just like the retail industry, which shows that it isn’t for everyone. To become a retailer of the future you have to be agile, passionate and determined.”

With Durban’s stormy weather brewing outside, the opening words of Karen Wells, Head of MRP Foundation, to industry and employer partners, parents and MRP Foundation staff at the Professional Retail Graduation, couldn’t have been more apt. 

Held at the Blue Waters Hotel in Durban on November 14, the graduation honoured the hard work and diligence of seven graduates who had just completed a difficult ten-month internship to equip them for junior positions in buying, planning and store management positions in retail organisations. Of the seven, five have already found employment.

Developed by industry for industry, the postgraduate programme blends classroom and workplace learning, building a bridge from tertiary education into the world of work and teaches graduates how to add real value in the workplace from day one. During the programme, graduates were put through their paces in real life work situations that deliberately tested their work ethic, attitude and commitment to the course and their career. Top marks went to Chatsworth resident, Damien Chetty, who was awarded the ‘Cutting Edge’ Award for his outstanding achievements and for exuding a positive attitude. 

“You gain so much from being part of a graduate programme — the working environment experience and the ability to better connect with people and develop yourself as a person and in a professional sense. The programme adds value for Employers as they won’t have to spend additional time or costs teaching individuals about basic aspects of retail but rather move onto more immediate aspects.”

Nelspruit-born Bianca Mathebula was awarded both the ‘Hang in There’ Award, for her commitment to persevere through the demanding internship and step out of her comfort zone and the ‘Best Fit’ Award for her passion and second place class position that has made her an excellent match for the retail industry.

Durban-North resident, Isebelle Myburgh, was one of the graduates and shared her experience of the internship, “I had the opportunity to learn from people who lived and breathed retail, met amazing people, and witnessed how the industry can have positive and negative effects on the people who work in retail, suppliers and the environment.”

The post-graduate programme is strategically beneficial for industry as well as Employer Partners, as it seeks to address critical skills gaps in retail buying, retail planning and store management across the retail sector, developing a skilled talent pool to find potential employees. Micheal Lawrence, Executive Director of the National Clothing Retail Federation, was a guest speaker at the graduation and explained the significance of the programme for both graduates, the industry and the country.

“For graduates, it’s important to understand the working environment and relationships and how to leverage the value of academia into those realities. In a developing country like South Africa, it’s critical to understand how to leverage good partnerships and it’s crucial to find the right partners. We’re seeing huge opportunity within the Clothing and Textile Value Chain, in what's called the Master Plan, that Government is supporting. We will always be greater than the sum of our parts.”

The evening also highlighted the many opportunities that stem from the retail industry with Karen Wells sharing her career journey from working in stores to now heading up the MRP Foundation, “Don’t limit yourself, the possibilities in retail are endless.”

Well done to the 2020 Professional retail Programme Graduates Andile Nyembezi, Bianca Mathebula, Damien Chetty, Isebelle Myburgh, Kaylan Chetty, Nceba Njanda and Nokubongwa Khumalo, we wish you all the best with your career journey!

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Bianca Mathebula (The ‘Best Fit’ Award and the ‘Hang in there’ Award) and Damien Chetty (The ‘Cutting Edge’ Award) celebrated their achievements at the Professional Retail Programme Graduation. Image: MRP Foundation/ Pierre Tostee