Real Work, Real Retail

The hustle and bustle of Big Box KwaMashu prepares young graduates for the working world
The hustle and bustle of Big Box KwaMashu prepares young graduates for the working world

MRP Foundation’s Professional Retail and Pre-Production Programme students learning about the realities of retail by trading fashion items to KwaMashu residents at Big Box’s KwaMashu location. Image: MRP Foundation / Pierre Tostee


The spirit of entrepreneurship evident at Big Box’s KwaMashu retail location helped inspire young graduates from the Professional Retail and Pre-Production Programmes to succeed at their real life learning challenge — to apply their internship learnings to trade at a fashion pop-up store by selling clothing and footwear to the residents of KwaMashu (26 October).

To help bridge the gap between tertiary education and the working world, MRP Foundation worked closely with retailers and the Retail and Supply Chain industry to create blended-learning programmes that equip graduates with real world work experience and career confidence. The Jump Start Professional Retail Programme is an intensive internship that prepares graduates for careers in planning, buying and store operations and the Pre-Production Programme develops clothing and fashion graduates in pre-production elements such as design, costing, pattern making and planning.

Students were given just one day for the daunting task of preparing stock, deciding on price points and visual merchandising, before setting up shop in an empty container. They had to work together as a team to implement strategy and react to customers, with facilitators from The Appletree Group and The Orenda Org on site to guide the students and offer advice.

Originally from Newcastle, Mbali Gamede is part of the Professional Retail Programme:

“I was initially intimidated because I am introverted but it was a wonderful experience to challenge my fears and engage with customers. The programme teaches you what you don’t learn in school, how to apply yourself in the business world and how to handle frustrations and emotions. It bridges that gap and you learn on the job.”

Twenty-five-year old Tessa Rae van Rensburg joined the Pre-Production Programme as she was looking for experience in the fashion industry. Speaking about the experience at Big Box, “You can’t do this on your own; everyone has been working together. It has been a learning curve but we have been so well equipped by our mentors and lecturers. I’ve been able to get a lot of experience as an all rounder and saw a lot behind the scenes. I would like to work in retail as a buyer.”

Bandile Mbatha, from KwaMakutha just outside of Durban, believed the experience helped practically unpack the theory taught during the Professional Retail Programme, such as emotional intelligence, price strategy and working as a team. “During the programme I learnt about the Supply Chain, which in theory is difficult to understand but you are exposed to it practically — I visited a factory for the first time. It equips you with real skills that you can apply to the working world.”

With various sources stating South Africa has the highest unemployment youth rate in the world*, it’s vital to prepare youth for a successful career by giving them workplace experience and life skills as well as linking them to sustainable employment opportunities. These programmes help youth become skilled traders and merchants of the future who can succeed in the ever-evolving world of retail, which is good for local industry too. MRP Foundation is proud to share that the 2017 Professional Retail Programme class achieved a 100% employment rate after graduation.

If you’re interested in pursuing an exciting career in retail and think you have the passion, commitment and creativity to succeed, apply by midnight 16 November 2018. The internship takes place in Durban and spaces are extremely limited for both courses. Applications are open for the 2019 Professional Retail Programme. Apply here.

*The Economist’s 2019 Pocket World in Figures, as featured in The Citizen: https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/2025384/sa-has-highest-youth-unemployment-in-the-world/

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