Automotive parts retailer AutoZone achieves success with upliftment programmes across South Africa

This year alone, motor spares retailer AutoZone has invested over R350 000 in various upliftment programmes which the company says are bearing fruit.

Last year AutoZone sponsored 37 students on the the W&RSeta’s Unemployed Youth Assistance Project (UYAP). The programme took a total of 160 students.

“We selected the students on the grounds that they passed matric or qualified academically for tertiary training but were prevented from enrolling into courses due to financial constraints,” said Jean Lindsay, HR manager at AutoZone.

“Over the 12 month learnership period, which ran from May 2011 until April 2012, the learners gained experience in all areas our retail stores, while they received theoretical training from Retail Relate,” she said.

All 37 students have graduated and 20 have been offered full-time employment with AutoZone.

“The programme was a great success. Not only did we assist the unemployed youth with invaluable retail experience, but a skilled recruitment pool has been created for the retail industry, which is so desperately needed,” she said.

AutoZone currently has a further 81 learners in its stores on a similar W&RSeta project in the rural areas (Free State, Northern Cape, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga), which is also being facilitated by Retail Relate.

“Skills shortages and unemployment statistics are higher in the rural than urban areas. The Rural Youth Assistance Programme is allowing the youth to become marketable, curbing unemployment and upskilling the industry in these desperate regions,” said Ms Lindsay.

“Further to the above two projects, AutoZone has also embarked on a project in conjunction with the ‘W&R Seta’, the ‘South African Disability Development Trust’ and ‘About Learning’ where we have 64 disabled learners in our stores currently working towards their NQF Level 2 National Certificate in Wholesale and Retail Operations. Disabled unemployed members of society face huge challenges in entering the job market,” she said.

“With competition for any employment so high, their physical or learning difficulties often place them at a disadvantage. At the end of April 2013, these 64 learners will have been trained in all areas of retail, will have a qualification, and will be able to offer a skill to any retailer. We hope to be able to employ many of these graduates at the end of their programme,” said Ms Lindsay.

AutoZone has also donated R60 000 to St Vincent School for the Deaf. Principal of the school Ingrid Parkin said, “An enormous project is being undertaken which will take two to three years to complete. We are upgrading the vocational section of the school which caters for our less academically inclined learners.”

“We are working towards improving our curriculum and acquiring SETA accreditation for a number of practical courses such as motor mechanics, photography, metalwork, woodwork, stained glass, jewellery design and upholstery. Alongside these practical courses we will also be offering life skills, numeracy, literacy and project management.”

“All this will be aimed at increasing the employment opportunities for our students with proper NQF certification for the subjects they studied. The donation will be directly utilised towards the purchase of the necessary teaching equipment within our vocation centre,” said Mrs Parkin.

In another educational programme, AutoZone has donated R60 000 to Christel House, a school based in the Cape for disadvantaged children.

“Christel House has high expectations from its students, its staff and its parents. It follows strict business practices and is committed to complete accountability and transparency,” said Ms Lindsay.

Charity Navigator, the non-profit sector’s watchdog, has awarded Christel House its top Four Star rating for the past two consecutive years – an achievement limited to only 15% of charities rated.

Ms Lindsay said the children have a longer school day and longer school year. The curriculum is rigorous and is complemented by technology, foreign language, art, music and activities that develop life skills, character and community service.

R30 000 has also been donated to the SAPS Widow and Orphans Trust, to support widows and children of members of the South African Police Services (SAPS), who have passed away while serving in SAPS.

In addition, AutoZone has donated R30 000 to SAPS Education Trust. This will contribute to the education needs of the children, also managed by the Widows and Orphans Trust.

The funds were both established as non-profit organisations and are fully dependent on donations by private companies as well as membership contribution from retired and currently serving SAPS members.

Brigadier Indera Chetty, director of the Widows and Orphans Fund, said it is only with generous gestures from individuals, private persons and companies such as AutoZone that both funds are able to undertake and accomplish their objectives.

“Children are often left destitute when the family’s breadwinner dies. The funds at the very least provides continuity in education and basic family needs,” she said.

Roland Bosse, general manager: Merchandise at AutoZone, said this is the ninth year AutoZone has been involved with the fund. Each year we host a golf day with our suppliers to raise funds and the proceeds are used as donations to various organisations.

Another project, FWC HIV/Aids Shelter provides hospice care, healthcare and shelter for terminally ill HIV/Aids patients to enable them to live with dignity. The shelter is situated in a previously disadvantaged community along the main transport route in Johannesburg.

Three informal settlement areas are part of this community, Joe Slovo Park, Katrada and Tokyo. Family counselling, education sessions and orphan support are also provided.

AutoZone donates monthly to FWC, ensuring that food and other essentials are provided to the patients.

For more information contact AutoZone on toll free: 0800 200 990 or visit the website .

About AutoZone

AutoZone is the largest privately owned automotive parts retailer and wholesaler in Southern Africa. AutoZone has a footprint of 10 wholly-owned Wholesale branches, 93 Wholly-owned Retail branches and 46 member-owned franchise branches. These branches are supported by a supplier base of more than 688 world-class suppliers and an active parts range of more than 75 000. AutoZone also has presence in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Botswana through a footprint of corporate and member branches. AutoZone’s branches are backed by a well-developed supply chain, merchandise and support services.

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