The Dream Team
Meet the Hout Bay couple Tania and Ronald Bownes who are helping to fight unemployment one job-seeker at a time...
These days it can be tough enough securing a job with a diploma or degree. Try looking for work without a qualification, experience or even a CV - and most people would throw up their arms in despair.
Not Ronald and Tania Bownes. The couple, who have been married for more than two decades, decided to roll up their sleeves instead, establishing Dreamworker to help even the poorest of the poor find employment in the Cape metropole.
And since the non-profit organisation first opened its doors in 2008, this Dream Team has "facilitated over 204 000 days of work, which has put over R26-million back into the hands of the unemployed," according to Tania, who heads up DreamWorker's Marketing and Human Resources.
"In one month alone, the organisation can engage with, empower and register over 200 people. Our database currently indicates there are over 450 people in some form of full-time or part-time work every month."
But, with a number of initiatives now in place to try and combat South Africa's alarming unemployment rate - one of the highest in the world at 25% (and double that for 15-24 year olds at 51%) - what makes DreamWorker different?
"We sit one on one with people," explains Tania. "There are many places that ask people to register on websites and so on, but we believe that even 20 minutes one on one can make a huge difference. We 'sense and feel' the person who is being interviewed and really personalise the process. We also do not charge our employees or employers any fees and that makes us very attractive to both groups."
A core component of the organisation is to match potential employers with employees by conducting personal interviews and reference checks, sourcing and keeping copies of ID books, Grade 12 certificates and other important documents.
The organisation also prepares job-seekers for the world of work by helping them to identify skills that have been dormant or overlooked and may increase their chances of employment, as well as to build their CVs and improve their communication skills.
"Right now, with the people we are looking at, the basic level of education is shocking. Basic numeracy and literacy is way below what it should be. Even Grade 12s are way below par. People need to be better educated in worker readiness - basic principles of absenteeism, how to manage their salaries, commitment, etc.,"says the couple. "Communication in English is also really lacking; some people who apply for receptionist or administrative positions cannot put together three words of English without errors. Grammar, punctuation simply do not exist!"
But it's not all doom and gloom. Besides upskilling job-seekers who come into their Athlone offices, the organisation is about getting people to tap into their sense of worth and hold onto their dreams - one of the motivations behind the name of the NGO. "Life can be very tough, but we all still have our dreams and at DreamWorker we want people to really hold onto theirs, no matter how hard things get!
In fact, Tania says one of their long-term goals is to get more and more people to believe in themselves and value their contribution. "We want people to be proud of what they can do and to believe that they CAN work," she says. "So many people just need someone to tell them 'Yes you can.' So often they will come to us and then go out and find work for themselves!"
And while they have experienced setbacks of their own, such as funding that was withheld and forced them to close their Somerset West operation - and ironically retrench some of their own staff last year - the Bownes say they couldn't think of doing anything else.
"We are passionately committed to improving life for all South Africans! Our dream is to help others create and live their dream lives with purpose."
The couple urge their fellow South Africans to do the same, saying there are ways in which we can all help to tackle unemployment in SA: "Employ people to do work, any work - short or long term. Think of ways to employ others. For example, don't DIY, let someone else help you... Rather than fighting unemployment, think along the lines of helping towards employment."
For more information about Dreamworker, click here...