The Foschini Group opens a Hearing Impaired Threaded Together facility
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By Eustace Mashimbye
THIS month I attended the official opening of a brand-new, world-class clothing manufacturing facility – TFG Prestige Clothing’s first in Joburg.
It is a remarkable project on many levels. The factory is in Nugget Street in Joburg’s CBD and will hopefully provide some impetus into the regeneration of the immediate area, which is extremely run down. Secondly, it is providing training and employment specifically to hearing impaired learners from St Vincent School for the Deaf, located in Melrose, Joburg.
So far, TFG, which is a Proudly SA member company, has admitted two intakes totalling over 40 learners. After undergoing training, the students are now manufacturing T-shirts for Jet and items including blankets and bags for various CSI projects. The manufacturing lines are soon to be increased to accommodate new intakes and the facility is set to grow.
Minister Ebrahim Patel spoke at the opening. From a clothing and textile union background himself, he was visibly moved and impressed by the passion that has been infused into the project – in fact, no one that attended can have failed to feel the gratitude and excitement that pervaded the event. The principal of St Vincent, Ingrid Parkin, was beaming throughout the proceedings, and explained that she had known most of these learners since some of them joined the primary school phase.
For me, as the chief executive of an organisation that is all about creating job opportunities for our people, there could be nothing more gratifying than seeing these 40-plus new jobs and watching the machinists in action. We know that young people are the hardest hit by the rampant unemployment in our country and the pride these students displayed in showing off their skills was heart-warming. In addition, and as an aside, I am happy to say that the introduction between TFG and St Vincent happened at Proudly SA’s 2019 flagship Buy Local Summit & Expo, on the expo floor where TFG was demonstrating the manufacturing of the same blankets that the St Vincent students are now making.
Young people with disabilities are even more vulnerable to falling by the wayside than the able-bodied.
But they too have life goals, ambitions, and hopes to start and support families of their own. These hearing-impaired students, without TFG’s Threaded Together initiative, may very well have finished school with few, if any, prospects and may have remained a burden on the state and their families in perpetuity. Instead, 40 young people now live with joy in their work, hope for an independent future and a skill that can be just the start of a career in the clothing and textile sector. As an additional benefit, we can count the reduction on the fiscus of the burden of 40 social grants as these young people have entered formal employment and are earning a living for themselves and their families.
Seeing this project really brought home to me, as if I needed any reminding, the imperative of doing whatever we can to provide jobs, especially for new entrants to the workplace. Paid employment is life affirming, it provides more than a salary, it provides a source of self-respect and a structure to our lives. Anyone who has visited any of our townships at any time of the day will see the huddles of young people whiling away their time – they have spent days, months and years without a job to go to, with no skills to help them access any employment opportunity and we can see the hopelessness when people stop even looking for employment.
TFG is challenging other retailers and manufacturers to find ways of absorbing young, disabled people into their work value chains.
They are pioneering with their Threaded Together initiative for which we commend them. When I took a walk through the factory and saw the young people at work, all I could hear in my head was the Bongo Maffin hit Siyajabula as all of us there were extremely excited and beaming with pride at what we were witnessing.
Such pockets of excellence and inspiration are what we need in these difficult times and so we join TFG in calling for more job opportunities to be created and for us to put more locally manufactured goods on the shelves of our retail stores.
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.