Tourvest Destination Management (TDM) has changed the lives of four young South Africans through its learnership programme.

According to Alisha Kirk, Guide Academy Manager at TDM, the four youngsters – Charity Lemukani, Philani Sangweni, Senzeni Mtshali and Tsholofelo Sedumedi – have been given the opportunity to train as guides as part of the TDM learnership programme. The programme contributes to broad-based empowerment by allowing the company to transfer skills and provide career opportunities to members of impoverished communities.

“All four of the students showed a keen interest in travel and tourism,” says Kirk.

The travel bug bit Mtshali after a visit to Germany in 2017 as part of a youth upliftment programme in Kliptown, Soweto, where he was raised. “Growing up in a place like Kliptown makes it hard for an individual to believe that they also can reach or fulfil their goals,” he says.

Sedumedi, who also grew up in Soweto, also visited Germany as part of the same programme. Lemukani attended a German school in Johannesburg, and Sangweni is from St Lucia in KwaZulu Natal.

According to Kirk, empowerment initiatives such as these play critical roles in driving transformation of the tourism sector at large, but also allow companies at individual level to invest in South Africa’s youth.

Through the leadership programme, learners from disadvantaged backgrounds receive their NQF level-5 certificates from TDM, following the completion of a course in general travel and tourism. A high percentage of the programme graduates go on to full-time employment within the Tourvest Integrated Tourism Services fold, says Kirk.

“We are directly involved in the training and grooming of the candidates. They form part of our company’s value system and vision from the start,” she says. “The results speak volumes. You have individuals who have a vested interest in their career and us as a business because we have shared the journey with them from ground zero.”

The message to international visitors is clear, says Kirk. “Be a part of the philanthropic movement through travel. You cannot make more of a difference than through travelling to South Africa.”