Here’s a real ‘feel-good’ story and one which gets Netstar, a subsidiary of JSE-listed Altron, a big hats-off for going this route.
It revolves around Netstar’s long-standing learnership programme which provides learners the opportunity to develop meaningful careers and expand their skills in the formal job sector. The difference here is that it includes people living with disabilities. As a result of this programme, Netstar has recently employed 11 hearing-impaired individuals to enhance its client offering and its commitment to diversity.
Prior to becoming full-time employees, the group of learners was supporting the fleets of major truck and bus operators in South Africa as part of a 12-month learnership programme which began in August 2017.
“The team has learned quickly and are now fully qualified monitoring agents,” says Pierre Bruwer, group managing director of Netstar. “Their monitoring and surveillance abilities are world class, providing safety and security for drivers and other road users. Their efforts are realising cost savings for our customers, some of which have fleets in excess of 3 000 vehicles.”
The opportunity to employ differently abled people was first identified after Netstar was awarded a new contract by a leading bus operator. As part of the fleet management solution, cameras were installed in all the company’s buses. The footage from these cameras feeds into a digital inspection bureau where it is monitored for instances of problematic behaviour by drivers or passengers. Thereafter, a surveillance pack is collated for each bus, allowing the company to implement constructive performance management processes.
The team of 11 highly trained individuals are integral in collating and analysing this surveillance and providing Netstar’s client with detailed analytics, helping them implement improved practices, saving time and cutting down on costs.
To ensure the team works closely with non-hearing-impaired members of staff, one of the team leads acts as an interpreter between the monitoring team and their colleagues. They use signing skills to communicate clearly and consistently.
“This new team is increasing the overall awareness of, and understanding for, people with different abilities in our company through initiatives such as basic sign language classes,” says Bruwer. “One of our strongest company values is inclusion and embracing diversity so we are extremely proud to be upholding these values in a tangible way. We believe that providing opportunities like these can be a game-changer for many disabled South Africans.”
Netstar’s learnerships focus on building relevant business skills and cover areas such as contact centre operations, business administration and generic management. Throughout the year-long programme, the students gain valuable understanding in theory, practical work exposure and life skills. These are vital qualities that not only remove the barriers to career growth and development, but that give them the tools they need to become more included in society as a whole.