HIS passion may have been sparked in the Joe Slovo informal settlement where he saw a man discard pieces of wood, but it was at the Raymond Mhlaba Skills Training Centre that Siphokuhle Mzazi honed his talent as a woodworker.
Mzazi, 25, is one of the many graduates of the Glendinningvale centre.
He joined after matriculating from Qaphelani Senior Secondary School in 2009, completing a woodwork course there. He has since started his own business, Woodmasters, which specialises in cabinet making and shopfitting.
“I thought I’d just go and see what the centre was all about and as soon as I walked through those doors I knew this was the place for me,” he said yesterday.
“Education is nothing if not practical.” Mzazi was speaking just a day after the centre received R250 000 from Nedbank towards its woodwork programme and 40 blankets.
He said while the programme had played a huge role in him establishing his business, he still needed help.
“When I have clients who want to do business, they want to see my workshop and I have to tell them I don’t have one. If I could get a workshop, I could create at least 50 jobs for people in my community.”
Another former woodwork and upholstery graduate, Thembekalisa Tata, 32, of King William’s Town, took her education a step further and enrolled at the Eastcape Midlands College for a fitting and turning course as she wanted to fix her own machines.
“I never grew up in a rich family. The Ray Mhlaba centre has changed my life. I would like to use the skills I have acquired at the centre and give back to my community,” Tata said.
Nombuso Jacobs, 27, a graduate of the early childhood development course at the centre, works at an early learning centre as a facilitator.
“I have a dream to open a daycare centre for Grade Rs. However there is still so much that needs to be done before that can happen. But I’d really like to use the skills I’ve learnt to better the circumstances in my community,” Jacobs said.
Started with just seven woodwork students in 2006, the centre now boasts a graduate tally of 860 students scattered across various industries and occupations.
Students come from mainly disadvantaged backgrounds and broken homes and the centre equips them with a skill while instilling in them a sense of self confidence.
“We at the centre feel the intervention in the lives of these youths is of utmost importance. It’s the only way to keep them off the street,” centre manager Caroline Ferreira said.
Nedbank’s corporate social responsibility team has been working with the centre since 2007.