Testing, verification and certification multinational Bureau Veritas has launched the iThemba Trust, which will fund the degrees of disadvantaged girls and young women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, says Bureau Veritas South Africa VP Sal Govender.
The trust is an independent body that will identify suitable candidates from communities in the regions in which the company provides its services, as well as from communities in regions where its clients operate.
Funding will include education fees, clothing, transport, accommodation, food and a living allowance to ensure that candidates do not struggle to complete their degrees because of nonacademic causes.
Further, Bureau Veritas will provide mentorship and workplace etiquette training, as well as work experience, for the young women, in addition to funding their four-year academic courses.
The company will also ensure that they are absorbed into Bureau Veritas once they have completed their degrees or will help them to establish startups, to which the company will subcontract, Govender says.
“We want to ensure that our initiative sustainably benefits girls and young women of colour. We believe that the sustainability of the initiative is crucial and, therefore, we are approaching our clients and partners to support the initiative to ensure that we see a fundamental impact and change,” she says.
Therefore, the candidates will have to study at accredited and recognised universities across South Africa, which will ensure that their degrees and competences are globally recognised and can work for any company worldwide.
This initiative is part of Bureau Veritas’s efforts to transform its South African operations in line with its global social awareness ethos.
“We are proud to announce that our journey has culminated in Bureau Veritas South Africa being recognised as 51% black-owned, as well as 30% black women-owned.”
“We are creating a sustainable women-empowerment programme to create lasting legacies and, ultimately, build a nation. We are poised to improve the lives of women, the backbone of society. It is our vision for South Africa to constantly exceed our client expectations through world-class professionalism from a diverse and highly motivated team,” Govender explains.
The size of the trust, as well as the funding and support by Bureau Veritas, has not been determined yet, but this will also determine how many candidates the trust can fund.
The aim is to provide a pool of resources and support structures that are sustainable and has the desired effect of providing benefits for many young women over the long term.
“Once we have determined what we can sustainably provide, in about three to four months’ time, we will release the size of the fund. We are also approaching our clients, including State-owned and private companies, as well as our competitors, to assess how we can increase the size of the initiative, with the aim of ensuring it is sustainable,” she concludes.