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Outreach to enrich

Ms Lufuno Mudzhigi (NRF/SAASTA) and Mr Harry Vuyo Jonas (Manyeo) addressing learners in Bizana.
Ms Nontobeko Khuzwayo advising learners on how to build and maintain a successful career in engineering.
Words of encouragement from Ms Makhanana Nkhwashu (NRF/SAASTA) outlining possible career ventures in chemistry.

Breaking new ground is not always about new inventions or technological advancements— it can also be about interactions and the effective communication of the role of science. In career profiling, to break new ground is to establish a connection, inspire and to give guidance to those who are in need of such an intervention. Breaking new ground may also refer to exceeding expectations. The National Research Foundation and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (NRF/SAASTA)has had a marathon of career profiling interventions in the past few months, leaping from one province to another and touching base on new and old grounds.

“Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role model” – Abdul Kalam, scientist and former president of India.

Based on the core values of NRF/SAASTA and the strategic aim of the Science Engagement Strategy, career profiling is one programme that is committed to transforming lives and popularising science through the engagement and outreach of local, active participants in the science orientated fields. The late struggle icon and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, once stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The career profiling programme echoes the teachings of Mandela by involving qualified science and engineering graduates to invest time to interact with the country’s most valuable investment, the school learners. Exposure is an essential element of education, thus through profiling, learners can be encouraged to pursue careers in science.

According to the 2016 study that was conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC): “There is a significant shortage of science and technology based occupations at both the professional and technician level,” (click here to download). Career profiling is a platform that creates awareness about the problem of career mismatch at the workplace; hence the focus of the programme includes providing learners information about the workplace. Unfortunately, the “take a child to work” campaigns cannot reach the vast numbers of learners in South Africa, but through this programme, NRF/SAASTA can reach and tackle issues such as career mismatch, direct learners on to the relevant career paths, and lead them to the correct doors to knock on. Material provided to the leaners enables the learners to start thinking about their future. Nothing stops an individual with access to accurate information.

Together with critical strategic participants such as non-profits and government departments, collaborations are providing beneficiation for the programme. Through their assistance, NRF/SAASTA is now able to extend its reach and open doors to new opportunities. It is always a positive indication when communities are independently mobilising and inviting NRF/SAASTA to get involved in schools’ career day/expos. To date, many of the role modelling campaigns, which have taken place with an element of community involvement, can be perceived as breaking new ground. Communities are realising the importance of the programme and are eager to tap into our passion for excellence in this regard.

Although the career profiling marathon is far from ending, the Science Education Division of NRF/SAASTA appreciates the enablers for the collective successes of the programme. The commitment to transforming lives and passion for building scientifically inclined communities remain at heart of NRF/SAASTA’s objectives.