“Many people living with disabilities still face barriers when it comes to employment opportunities. Upskilling and creating local employment for them was a particular focus area for TFG (Africa) over the last few years,” said Graham Choice, MD TFG merchandise supply chain.
Through TFG’s involvement with Proudly South Africa, a valuable connection was made with St Vincent School of the Deaf in 2019. Like elsewhere in the country, the school had many learners leaving but unable to find jobs, further challenged by the fact they are deaf.
TFG partnered with the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) Seta and the Thandeka Vocational Education Trust (TVET SA), an accredited industry training provider, to train school leavers from St Vincent’s. TFG’s Prestige Clothing, Bidvest and Berzacks all assisted by joining the partnership and providing a modern working environment for the learners.
“The first intake of 23 learners will complete an NQF Level 2 CTFL manufacturing learnership in October 2021. An additional 24 learners are also currently on the programme and will complete their learnership in 2022. We hope to enrol our third group of learners in 2022,” explained Choice.
Building an inclusive economy
This year, TFG appointed more than 100 unemployed people living with disabilities into learnerships across the business. Through this programme, learners with a long-term or recurring physical or mental impairment are being upskilled through various 12-month learnership programmes and gainfully employed.
The newly launched factory is one of five factories making TFG’s Prestige Clothing the largest local apparel manufacturer in South Africa, employing 2,470 permanent employees as of 31 July 2021.
Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, commented, “I welcome the efforts by TFG to build a more inclusive economy, providing skills and work opportunities for the hearing-impaired. The industry partnership is about building the dynamism of local factories that can create more jobs, supply competitively-priced goods to consumers and provide a fair wage for workers and a fair return to shareholders.”
Over the past five years, TFG said it has worked with the South African government, the Department of Trade and Industry and Competition (DTIC) especially, to strategically create a diversified and agile local supply chain. This investment reduced its reliance on China and other international suppliers. This focused strategy has led to an increase in the contribution of locally manufactured products for its retail brands.
Five years ago, more than 80% of all TFG merchandise came from the East; today, locally manufactured textiles have grown to a meaningful 37%, and this will increase exponentially over the next few years.
Evidence of this strategy can be seen in the retailer’s expansion of its Prestige Maitland and Caledon factories. Together with the launch of three additional hubs, they are collectively projected to employ 5,000 workers by 2026.