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Building more than just cars BMW invests in people

Written by: Anazi Zote Piper

BMW prides itself in that it not only limits its business to building cars but it also ensures it build its people.

Recently, the company invited media representatives from around the globe to embark on an immersive journey through their South African operations to not only celebrate its 50 years as a partner to South Africa but also to offer unique insight on the company’s Transformation Days. I was grateful to be invited as one of those media and wanted to take the opportunity to share with you what I saw.

BMW Group South Africa is committed to offering equitable employment and training opportunities for all diverse groups. They recognise the moral and socio-economic imperative to address inequality arising from South Africa’s divisive past.

“We wholly support South Africa’s Broad-based Black economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) act which seeks to redress the historic economic inequalities created by apartheid and its aftermath,” according to Julia Modise, Group Human Resources Director, BMW Group South Africa.

The key focus for BMW is to provide skills development to its employees from previously disadvantaged communities. This is to ensure they provide them with more management opportunities and support more black enterprises as part of their value chain.

Say YES to youth employment

Currently over 50% of youth in South Africa are unemployed. As part of BMW’s transformation strategy it participates in the Youth Employment Service (YES) programme. YES encourages corporations to provide short-term employment, for about a year, to young South Africans.

According to Peter van Binsbergen – CEO BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa it’s important to provide jobs at a time where there is a high youth unemployment rate in the country.

“The job creation and stability we provide in this country is focused on education from kindergarten right until youth employment services (YES), where we were one of the top ten employers last year for graduates fresh out of university. I think it helps us address those issues,” says van Binsbergen.

A total of 1506 jobs across the nine provinces have been created by BMW Group South Africa as part of this initiative and of these 63% are female.

Beyond the factory walls and into the classrooms

Historically, BMW Group South Africa has always focused on education and schooling when it comes to working with local communities. In the 1970s it developed the Schools Environmental Educational Development programme to encourage learners and young people to become environmentally aware. The aim was to empower communities by giving them knowledge required to provide for themselves, by viewing Earth as a source of food and monetary growth.

Since then, local Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives have supported more than 140 schools across the country, with a particular focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

One of the key schools that BMW is in partnership with is Lethabong Secondary School where Ilka Horstmeier, Member of the Board of management of BMW AG, People and Real Estate, Labour Relations Director gave a compelling speech. She emphasised finding the right balance between economic success with environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

“At BMW Group we ask ourselves what our response is to the current and growing challenges we face in society – far beyond the status quo. We want to show you that companies today are no longer just measured by how they maximise profit, but by how much added value they contribute to society,” says Horstmeier.

BMW partners with UNICEF

This year BMW embarks on a new initiative with UNICEF in South Africa. Focussed on 5,000 young people aged 13 to 21 years. This project aims to help the next-generation fulfil their educational potential and prepare them for the workforce by elevating their digital, science and tech skills.

“Both of our organisations share the firm belief that education is the engine that drives development of our society. Together, we want to help ten million children and young people worldwide access excellent education and vocational training,” says Horstmeier.

In practical terms BMW’s role involves the provision of equipment to set up workshops and laboratories. Alongside this are technology competitions and prizes to get boys and girls excited about STEM subjects. These initiatives support young people to transition from school to working life, through a combination of career guidance and mentoring programmes.

George Graf Waldersee, Chairman of UNICEF Germany said he saw this initiative as a way to nurture young talent. He also said he is impressed with the investment and commitment of BMW as a partner towards this project.

“Throughout this process, I have been deeply impressed with the level of personal commitment at BMW. This is a partnership based on shared values and one that is close to your heart as it is to ours at UNICEF, and I applaud you for that,” says Waldersee.

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