Refilwe Machaba has been the top achiever at the Samsung Electronics Engineering Academy in Boksburg, Johannesburg for the last two years. The Academy provides Grade 10 to Grade 12 students from participating technical high schools and others from further education and training colleges in Ekhurhuleni with free, hands-on skills training.

Refilwe, this year in Matric at Katlehong Technical Secondary school, lives with his unemployed mother and two younger sisters in Katlehong Dikole. At school, he excels in physics and maths, and as has been shown by his performance at the Samsung Academy, he clearly has an aptitude for electronics as well. “I was thinking of studying actuarial science and becoming a financial advisor at Samsung,” he says. “But now I’m torn, because I’m fascinated with electronics as well.”

The Samsung Academy finds employment for those graduates who do not have the opportunity to continue with their studies. Out of this year’s 40 graduates, 17 have gone on to tertiary education, while Samsung has placed the remaining 23 graduates in jobs at its service centre, knock down plant and call centre partners. The company is proud that it has managed to place 100% of its graduates in jobs for two years running – a result of the Academy’s focus on practical, relevant skills to meet industry demand.

Refilwe says that the biggest challenge presented by the academy is balancing the commitment with the rest of his studies, but he says that this is good practice for his university studies.

“It’s very important to me to study further,” he says. “I want to be able to stand on my own two feet and to look after my family. I hope my sisters look up to me.”

In recognition of his achievements, Refilwe was awarded a television at the 2011 Academy graduation, and at the 2012 graduation, he received a washing machine. “It’s been really cool – I’m starting to fill the house with furniture,” he says. “I’m not even working yet and I can already show my family how I will provide for them.”

Samsung’s Electronics Engineering Academy is a part of the company’s commitment to developing 10,000 electronics engineers on the African continent by 2015. This ties in closely with the South African Government’s New Growth Path, which includes the key target of producing 30,000 engineers in this country by 2014.