“I’ve always been involved in youth development through the church or as a basketball coach, but in 2009, while running
my own business, I realised that I wanted to work directly with young people and help them to improve their own lives. That became my guiding light,” says Adrian Bezuidenhout as he sits in his office at Bergzicht Training where he has recently been appointed as the new training manager.
While Adrian has always had an interest in youth development, his career path took him in a direction that initially did not coincide with that goal. He started off working as an apprentice, qualifying as an artisan in the printing industry at Nasionale Tydskrifte and finally moved from that position to the music industry where he concentrated on royalty collection and distribution for the South African Music Rights Organisation based in Cape Town. In 2007 he worked as a sales representative in the telecommunications sector, and thereafter, started his own sign writing business.
“Sign writing was my dad’s trade and I decided to follow in his footsteps,” says Adrian, who lives in Brackenfell and has two children, Zoë, 19, and Noah, 14.
It was only in 2009 that his career took a turn and brought him into contact with young people as a student recruiter and later a job placement officer for False Bay College.
“It was inspiring to take a young person who had never worked before, whose own parents had often not had a job themselves, and take that person to the point where they were starting a career. I think that is life changing, not only for the person, but for their family too. That to me is one of the most important callings one can have.”
A few years later Adrian moved over to Northlink College, where once again he was involved in job placement and the project management and administration of various projects funded by various Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).
“I was fortunate to be able to place many students in jobs through this position.”
After finishing his BCom Honours in management at the University of the Western Cape, his wife Samantha showed him an advert for a training manager at Bergzicht Training.
“I looked at that ad and I thought, ‘an NGO, no ways,” says Adrian as he lets out a laugh.
“I had worked with NGOs in the past and I have to say, they did not always clothe themselves in glory so I did not have the most positive view of the sector. But the job looked very interesting and the more I started searching for information online and started speaking to other people about Bergzicht Training, the more I became curious about the organisation and the people they served.”
His interest piqued, Adrian decided to apply for the job. After his first interview, he says, he was sold on working for the organisation.
On January 8 this year, Adrian took up his role as training manager at Bergzicht Training.
“I am very excited to be granted this opportunity. Yes, I find myself in a new, and challenging environment, but I am surrounded by a very professional and well organised team who take their clients very seriously, and that has eased my transition into this role. Bergzicht Training has managed to marry a business-orientated approach with heart for the students and I believe that is the factor that has made them so successful.”
Adrian’s job is to build on that success by further improving administrative structures and the NGO’s business structure. At the same time, he is also responsible for the smooth running of the training programmes, overseeing the budget for the programmes and ensuring that Bergzicht Training does not only meet its targets in terms of retention, but also the placement of students.
“Those are top priorities. Equally important is the communication side, both internally and externally. We would also like to expand the accreditation of our programmes.”
Asked about how he feels about the NGO sector now, he says: “It’s definitely not a step down in any way. The calibre of the institution and the staff here is impressive. I don’t believe there is a big difference between corporate and Bergzicht Training. The constraints in corporates are easier to overcome though as one can easily say ‘let’s do this’ or ‘I need a new this or that’ and it’s done, whereas with an NGO, you need to be more circumspect in how you approach things.
“Every penny needs to be turned over three or four times before a decision is made. You are not spending money to make a profit here. The money you spend is from people who have a philanthropic interest and who, in a sense, become our shareholders, so you have to take extra care with how you spend money to fulfill the requirements of the contract you have with them, because when someone gives money to help a young person, they want to change that person’s life and they’re giving Bergzicht Training the means to do so.”
Adrian says he is excited to finally be fulfilling his 2009 wish.
“I have a tremendous opportunity to help Bergzicht Training expand on the depth of impact that they have on young people’s lives and personally I would like to increase the number of students whose lives we can affect. I also want us to have a deep and lasting impact on students and not just be considered as a stop along the way, but a real platform for them to work from.
“For this reason I want to encourage those who are interested in developing their job skills to come to Bergzicht Training because when you decide to commit to us, we will commit to you and will do whatever is in our power to make sure you are successful, whatever your idea of success may be.
“Bergzicht is a platform to improve your life and your skills, both your market-related and life skills. We don’t just think of you as a number, but a person who we can help to go from where they are now, to a more desired state.”