WIL or Work Integrated Learning is a practical one-year programme as part of the agricultural diploma offered by Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). It’s an exceptional tool to fuse theory and practice for farmers in the making. By Gerrit Rautenbach
Just outside Wellington in the Western Cape, you’ll find the agricultural campus (resorting under the faculty of Applied Sciences) of CPUT on a smallholding. For the first two years of every agricultural student’s life enrolled there, it’s all theory. Books and exams galore. Year three is where it changes. Students still have six subjects to complete, but it is all online. Giving them time to get to the practical side of agriculture. Giving them an introduction to the real world out there and getting their hands into the soil.
“It’s amazing how most of these students when they arrive, believe the previous two years’ theory empowered them to farm. But being on the ground, reveal a different story,” Zane Ontong, foreman at Blue Jay farming near Stellenbosch explains. “However, along the line, the theory and practice merge. The essence of the theory as a basis helps them to get focused. They come from a base of the discipline. And thinking.”
CPUT is calling on all aspects of the farming fraternity in SA to help these students and in the process to help themselves by taking on some candidates for an internship of one year. Be it as a farmworker, in the packhouse, or anywhere along the value chain, these candidates are not raw school leavers anymore. They have done some preparation towards a neater future in the broader world of agriculture.
Making it even better, while making an investment in someone’s future, is that it won’t cost you financially. The students are aware that it is part of their diploma and not a job yet. However, in certain instances, a student may get an allowance from Agri-SETA. Whichever way you look at it, it is an effort that can only boost the process of filling the fruit basket of this country. In all aspects ̶ from helping to create work to boosting transformation to helping to increase the intellectual level of this beautiful country’s people.
“A practical year is every student’s most exciting part of the studies … not knowing what to expect in a working industry. At first, it was quite hard for me to adapt to a workplace but as time went by it became a nice experience, the challenges we got, the tasks we were given and the problems we had to solve,” explains Tembekazi Dyantyi who started as an intern at Sonlia Fruit Packhouse, ending up in a fulltime job as a graduate placement.
“The advantage for Sonlia is that it brings us in contact with potential out there already with important academic background. Without WIL, we would never have had this opportunity,” adds JC Muller of Sonlia Fruit Packhouse and mentor of the students they take on.
“It was a shock because I thought I knew better. When you only have information from the books, you really don’t know everything. We learnt how to work with people, how people operate, and how the production of fruit works. It is the way to go,” says Sipho Sigotyana, doing her internship at Blue Jay Fruit.
The future of farming depends on farming employers educating future farming employees and integrating them into the value chain. Be it picking, pruning, managing, packing, spraying, or balancing the books. Whatever it takes to get the fruit out there to the consumer. Wherever they may be.
Once they have done the theory, you can help them master the practical. And if they do not make the grade, you owe them nothing. That’s it, not good enough. You both walk away from it, but that more often than not does not happen. What do you stand to lose? Take on a student or two to check them out. At the end of the process, you make the call. You don’t only take the student on board to help him but to possibly help your business.
Who will WIL help?
Becoming part of the project is easy. If you are keen to get involved, CPUT asks you for an advertisement, or for information to help them construct an advertisement on your behalf. This will feature on CPUT’s electronic billboard for all students to see and respond. Which they will.
CPUT does not place students. They post opportunities for students to grab. This is where the skills they have learnt will come into practice. Then it’s up to the students and the farming practices to come to an agreement. Which makes it part of the real world. What CPUT wants is for the student to chase any possible opportunity and for farming practices out there to offer those opportunities. “What I’m telling them is that last year they were students, this year they are workers,” says Ben Saaiman from CPUT. “No more sleeping late, you get up early, you’re a farmer. But most of all, you are entering the real world…the business world.”
Pictured here Awonke Tyumse from Blue Jay Fruit.