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From the 14-16 April 2010, the TAPPSA Southern Region hosted a stand at My Future Career Expo 2010 – an initiative by the Western Cape Department of Education to expose high school learners to various industries and future employees. The Expo was held at the MTN Science Centre at Canal Walk Mall and attended by a number of disadvantaged schools from the Western Cape, the majority of whom have limited access to information or advice on what career paths to choose post-matric.

Armed with informative posters designed by TAPPSA for school learners on the “coolness” of the pulp and paper industry, a raw materials display provided by Berenice Wesso of Tongaat Hulett and a tremendous model of a Kraft paper machine supplied by Jerome Frantz of Sappi Cape Kraft, the Southern Region Committee managed to put together an attractive stand with which to lure school learners to TAPPSA. Once set up, we awaited the bustling arrival of future electrical engineers, mill foremen and paper technicians with excitement.

The TAPPSA stand proved a great hit with learners - a major draw card being the apprentices that the Southern Region committee had organised to stop by and explain the pulp and paper industry’s apprenticeship opportunities first-hand to learners. Most of the learners attending the Expo came from very poor households, with very few of them realistically able to obtain a tertiary education – therefore the idea of being able to slot into an apprenticeship system straight out of matric was very appealing. Learners were very interested to hear from the apprentices how the majority of TAPPSA members will gradually train matriculants (or those with no prior training) to become technicians, engineers or mechanics at no cost to their families or themselves, over and above the various company benefits.

While we still got a few starry-eyed pupils dreaming of becoming overnight CEOs of international pulp and paper companies, we were pleasantly surprised to get more and more questions on the in’s and out’s of the paper production chain – from raw materials and forestry to what a headbox was and how laboratory technicians work.

It was immensely rewarding in particular to see the number of young females who tapped into all that the pulp and paper industry offers – from the more technical side to social development projects and environmental engineering. One young lady in particular had decided years ago to become an engineer for the pulp and paper industry, following her brother’s employment at a paper mill in Cape Town (more on this on the following page).

And for all the die-hard management-aspirants, Mill Managers Jason Naidoo (Nampak Tissue) and Jonathon Hermanus (Sappi Cape Kraft) were on hand to explain the amount of hard work that management entails – let alone the long journey it takes to get there. Jonathon Hermanus and Jerome Franz also made presentations in the Expo’s career lecture series that ran parallel to the exhibition, and were met with a relatively good response.

Attending My Future Career Expo 2010 was an invaluable step for TAPPSA that has outlined two important facts: (1) the majority of high school learners are entirely clueless of the career opportunities our industry offers and, following this, (2) high-school learners are an untapped market for our industry to utilize.

Further attendance of events similar to My Future Career Expo 2010 is therefore imperative for TAPPSA if we want to grow our ranks and inform the man-on-the-street of what the pulp and paper industry is all about.

Following the difficulty school learners had in getting to the event, it seems any future plans must entail TAPPSA representatives taking the water to the horse instead, as it were, by visiting schools directly or arranging mill visits for select school learners. A number of teachers approached the TAPPSA booth to express tremendous interest in mill visits and further TAPPSA talks, given the accessibility of the pulp and paper industry for their pupils through our apprenticeship system. This is a unique draw card that we have with high school learners, and we need to market it (and TAPPSA) far better if we want to overcome our skills shortage.

The MTN Science Centre has also approached the TAPPSA Southern Region to exhibit at another careers expo later this year, based on the impressive hands-on approach of their stand. Such interactive marketing needs to be seriously considered and invested in by TAPPSA as a successful way to reach school learners.

Should you or your mill have any further thoughts on this, please email me on so that we can begin creating a more proactive, visible industry. After all, the more we invest in the youth of today, the more we reap in the industry of tomorrow.

A special thanks to the TAPPSA Southern Region committee for their hard work and many hours spent in organising TAPPSA’s successful involvement in the Careers Expo – in particular to Jerome Franz and Berenice Wesso.

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