SIPHELELE NDZAMELA and JON HOUZET
THERE was an overwhelming response when a new employment and skills development centre opened in Port Alfred on Monday, with more than 120 job seekers registering at the site.
The Sikhulise Skills Development Centre opened its doors for the first time this week, after months of preparation by the project organisers, who received permission from the municipality to use the old Home Affairs office in Pascoe Crescent.
Project spearhead Jane Cowley said the purpose of the centre was to provide a safer and more convenient venue for casual workers to be picked up by building contractors, garden service businesses and other employers, instead of job seekers lining the R72 and waiting outside the marina entrance.
UP AND RUNNING: Gerald Badela (in blue jacket) was one of more than 100 job seekers who registered at Sikhulise Skills Development Centre at the old Home Affairs office on Monday. Project organiser Jane Cowley is on the left with fellow volunteer Nompumelelo Sigonyela PICTURE: SIPHELELE NDZAMELA
By registering each job seeker, with copies of their ID and skills on file, Cowley said there would be a formal system in place for potential employers to find suitable employees.
Contractors who come to collect workers must go inside the offices so that the person to do the job will be appointed in the office.
“This will create equal opportunity for the job seekers,” said Cowley.
Employers are also encouraged to rate the casual worker’s performance for the benefit of future employers.
The centre also provides shelter and toilet facilities for the men, and they get soup three times a week from the Port Alfred Soup Kitchen.
Cowley said the plan is to grow the job centre into a skills development centre where those waiting for work are taught woodwork and gardening skills.
She met with job seekers last week to inform them about the new centre and was pleased with the response this week.
“There are more people than we anticipated. It just shows how high unemployment is in our area,” she said.
One of the casual workers, Mandlenkosi Nhyaba, told TotT he had been looking for a job since last year.
“It is really difficult finding employment,” he said.
The 23-year-old, whose skills are plumbing and paving, said: “I think the centre might be helpful to us but it is still early to determine that at this stage.”
Mkhanyiso Nhyaba, also 23, said: “I’m hoping that the centre makes a huge difference because we are in need of proper jobs.”
Nhyaba specialises in painting and paving.
“This is could make a huge difference because it is safer here, we have access to water, toilets and there’s also a food supply,” said Mncedisi Mangcangaza, 50.
“Where we used to stand we were exposed to a lot of danger and when it was raining we had no shelter,” he added.
Another job seeker, Lusanda Phetha, said: “I have a family to support and things are really difficult.”