To stimulate employment within the wine and hospitality industry in South Africa, and raise the standard of service within the tourism sector, the Cape Wine Academy and Department of Tourism launched the Level 1 Cape Sommelier programme in March 2012.
Two hundred previously disadvantaged and unemployed youth between the ages of 18 and 34 were originally selected from townships within the Cape and Gauteng regions to gain the Wine Advisors Level 1 Cape Sommelier qualification. The training centres were in located Soweto, Tembisa, Mitchell’s Plain, Gugulethu and Langa.
On graduation day in both provinces, this laudable initiative finally armed 86 very happy graduates from Gauteng and 68 from the Western Cape with certificates to enter into hospitality tourism at any sector and the ability to earn a decent wage, uplifting themselves and those around them.
Several of the graduates, now officially called Wine Advisors, have already entered the workplace, contributing to the overall development of the hospitality tourism sector. Western Cape learners Handre Saaiman, Nomtibuzethu "Zethu" Kama and Patience Mvenga are among the students who have benefited.
Somerset West resident Handre Saaiman had been unemployed for 5 months before being accepted into the Cape Wine Academy Sommelier Level 1 Programme. Now Handre works alongside his brother Gustav (both graduates of this programme) at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West as a banquet assistant and waiter in the hotel restaurant. "I fell in love with wine and the industry; I have more confidence in myself," says Handre when asked about the impact of the sommelier programme on his life. Handre aspires to one day be a Food & Beverage Manager for a hotel.
Nomtibuzethu "Zethu" Kama studied the Level 1 Cape Sommelier programme in Gugulethu after reading about it in a local newspaper. With little prior knowledge of the wine industry, Nomtibuzethu enjoyed the wine tasting module of the training and hopes to one day work in the wine export sector. After three years of unemployment, the Level 1 Cape Sommelier programme helped Nomtibuzethu land a job working for event management company, espAFRICA.
Patience Mvenga gained employment at Hollow on the Square after five months of unemployment, prior to enrolling in the Level 1 Cape Sommelier programme, which she read about in a local newspaper. In the next five years, she aims to find work in the hospitality sector on a cruise ship and believes that the programme has helped her become a “hard worker and a good listener”.
Gauteng graduates Rowena Setle, Thalitha Nong and Evans Mashaba have also benefited from the sommelier programme. Currently employed as a sales rep for Nixan Wines, Rowena Setle attended her classes at Risuna Primary School in Mofolo Soweto and did her practical work at Vinimark, Southern Sun Montecasino Hotel, and Checkers Horizon View.
Similarly to Rowena, Thalitha Nong, studied in Soweto and completed her practical course component at Nicholsen Smith, Southern Sun Montecasino Hotel, and Checkers in Roodeport. She is currently employed as a receptionist at the Southern Sun Montecasino Hotel.
Evans Mashaba completed his practical component of the course at Smollens, The Palazzo Hotel, Checkers in Emmarentia and Tops at Spar. After completing the programme he found employment at Simply Asia Restaurant in Southdown, Centurion.
Says Melinda van Staden, conference manager for Cape Town Hollow on the Square: "I deeply believe in the Cape Wine Academy Level 1 training programme. Not only has it given a fantastic opportunity to young and talented South African youth, it has also enriched and enhanced the standard of the South African hospitality industry.
"The Cape Wine Academy students have been a pleasure to work with. Not only are they friendly and enthusiastic, but they were a fantastic addition to my team, even if it was only for a while whilst doing their practicals. Based on the level of excellence of these students, I have now employed some of the Cape Wine Academy graduates and plan on doing so again in the future. Thank you, Cape Wine Academy, and I urge you to keep up the excellent work.”
Marilyn Cooper, Cape Wine Master and CEO of the Cape Wine Academy, said the Wine Advisor Level 1 Cape Sommelier programme has been a most rewarding project.
"We saw young unemployed youths come in, and educated, enthusiastic grown-ups leave, ready to take on what the world has to offer. We would like to thank all the hospitality and retail companies that took on these students for their practicals. Your input was invaluable. Now it’s time to employ these well-qualified students within the wine, retail and hospitality industries."