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The Thuthuka Difference

When it comes to hiring employees there are many factors to consider; ability, education, experience, psychometric fitness for the job and the need to fulfil BBBEE and transformation requirements.  An ability to get on with people is, for many, another key consideration – we all work better with people we like. That the prospective employee has the right skills and can get the job done is, of course, non-negotiable.

Assessing a candidate’s long-term suitability requires careful consideration, especially when assessing junior staff. What if you find a source of highly qualified African or Coloured candidates who have been selected for tertiary education because of their extraordinary aptitude and their determination to succeed? Candidates who are humble, hardworking and grateful for the opportunities they have been given — candidates who truly want to give back to their communities? I found just such a source of talent in the Thuthuka Bursary Fund candidates.

I recently interviewed the managers responsible for the Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF) programme in the ‘Big Five’ auditing firms.  I also chatted to their counterparts at FNB, Sasol and Discovery. All these companies strongly support the SAICA-inspired TBF programme (established in 2005) and have TBF trainees under their supervision.

Through TBF, bursaries are awarded to disadvantaged African and Coloured learners who have the ability, but not the means, to become chartered accountants. The bursaries provided also focus on developing leadership potential and to date, have proved very successful. To date 95 TBF students have passed the ITC and APC exams, with 26 having qualified as CAs (SA), and there are an impressive 1 200 bright young minds in the Thuthuka pipeline. These youngsters all have one thing in common: they have overcome unbelievable odds on their journey from a township or rural high school to university and beyond. They are by no means a completely homogenous bunch, but I was consistently impressed by the feedback I received during our first few interviews. Thuthuka students are making an impression and they are performing above the national pass rate at exam time.

“Our trainees are very able, committed to the task and hungry to succeed, not just for themselves but for their families,” says Dwayne Leonard, Lead Practitioner of Learning (Finance) at Sasol Group Services. “One of our trainees is brilliant. He has amazing leadership potential and we are going to fast track him up the ladder.”

Willem van der Post, Partner in Financial Institute Services at Deloitte, confirmed that the humble attitude and appetite for hard work was displayed by many Thuthuka trainees and said he had great admiration for the TBF.

“It’s the best model we have in terms of transformation,” says van der Post. “It’s levelling the playing fields so that everyone can compete on an equal basis.”

“Our Thuthuka trainees never say no to extra work. They’ve got an amazing level of maturity – way beyond their years,” remarked another commentator, reaffirming the earlier viewpoints.

And while there are plenty of CAs(SA) who came from the best schools and who work just as hard, there’s something about these TBF youngsters, who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, which I sense this country really needs.

Social entrepreneur Taddy Blecher has long recognised the value of discovering diligent and bright but underprivileged students and turning them into business leaders. He is also impressed with the value created by the Thuthuka approach.

Companies who need a steady flow of accounting talent, or are challenged by transformation, would do well to consider the Thuthuka programme as a vehicle for their CSI or their training and bursary budgets. SAICA has convinced government to match private sector contributions Rand-for-Rand, so not only is the quality achieved by the TBF outstanding, but individual companies can educate accountants to honours level through the TBF for a fraction of the cost that they would spend directly. It’s a no-brainer really.

For more information about the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, please contact Nthato Selebi on 011 621 6600 or nthatos@saica.co.za. ❐