Life Starter programme bearing fruit at Konica Minolta South Africa's Port Elizabeth branch
In 2010, Konica Minolta South Africa launched a bursary initiative called the Life Starter programme. The concept was to identify grade nine students who were interested in a career in the IT sector and then provide a three-year schooling bursary to the successful candidate, along with the promise of employment after school.
Initially, five branches were asked to participate, including the Port Elizabeth (PE) branch. In order to find suitable prospects, the PE branch formed a Life Starter committee, which decided to approach the principals of local technical schools and garner their input and recommendations. Two schools, namely Alexander Road High School and Newton Park Technical High School, were approached as these offered subjects in line with the base skills set that was required.
There was an abundance of interested scholars, but this was whittled down to the eight candidates who displayed the most enthusiasm for the opportunity. Each candidate, along with their parents, was interviewed, after which the selection committee chose three finalists. The next round saw these final three given the opportunity to work at the PE branch for a week during the school holidays. After this evaluation and final interviews, it was agreed that 15-year-old Timothy Paulsen was the best candidate for the Life Starter Bursary. The bursary, which is funded by Konica Minolta South Africa, included school fees, school uniform, stationery, as well contributions towards extra-mural activities for the 2012 to 2014 school years.
Making dreams come true
Paulsen's proud Mother, Karen Paulsen, says: "Being granted this bursary motivated Timothy to work harder at his schooling as he felt extremely proud to have been selected. When Tim was a youngster, we would have to watch him and never leave him alone with the computer, as he always wanted to take it apart to see how they were made. We were obviously nervous he would shock himself, wipe the operating system, lose our data or even set fire to the thing! It has always been Tim's dream to do IT, so this Life Starter Bursary has been a dream come true for him. Having all the costs taken care of was such an incredible blessing. And just knowing that Tim was guaranteed a job after school, something which concerns all parents and scholars alike, is a great weight off our minds."
Year on year, Paulsen performed well and his results went from strength to strength. He, of his own free will, would regularly give up a week of his school holidays and come to "work". He became a regular dependable contributor and formed great relationships with all our staff during his schooling. This contribution was done in spite of a hectic community schedule. He matriculated in 2014 with an overall average of a C and acceptance for a bachelor's degree.
Living the dream
After his studies, Paulsen started working as a trainee technician at the PE branch in January 2015 and immediately proved the value of the training path he had followed. He is already viewed as an important asset to the Service Department. His responsibilities include repairs, setting up of new devices, as well as refurbishing pre-owned devices in the workshops.
But this is not the end of his learning journey. He has already achieved 100% in the associate level in KMIT (Konica Minolta Business Technologies - Japan) Web-based learning and he is currently studying towards the professional level. Furthermore, Paulsen has been enrolled in the IT - Technical Support Learnership Programme to be held in Johannesburg, which is due to start later this year. Once this training has been completed, Paulsen will be responsible for the IT Helpdesk Software support at the PE branch.
"I would like to thank Konica Minolta South Africa for giving me this opportunity to fulfil my dream. It was an honour to obtain the bursary and it gave me a sense of pride knowing that I was selected from a group of other learners. I've always enjoyed working with my hands, even as a toddler I enjoyed playing with blocks and puzzles. When I was introduced to computers, I became very interested and wanted to know more about technology. The bursary took a lot of the financial pressure off my parents, which was a huge blessing," says Paulsen.
"Additionally, being given the opportunity to work and study is such an advantage; I am doing theory and practical, which I enjoy. I know of many people who have studied but cannot find work in their field of qualification. Going forward, I want to continue to work for Konica Minolta South Africa, being an asset to the company, being a loyal employee and contributing to the growth and progress of the company.
"Lastly, I would to say a big 'thank you' to everyone at the Port Elizabeth branch, for welcoming me, believing in me and making me feel part of the family," he concludes.
"More than his academic qualifications, it is Timothy's pleasant manner that makes him such an asset to the Port Elizabeth branch. We are grateful to his parents and teachers for instilling such a great attitude and for raising such a well-balanced individual. I am quite sure that Timothy will go on to do big things and become a future leader within Konica Minolta South Africa. The Life Starter programme is phenomenal and Timothy is testament to its success," says Warren Diakos, Port Elizabeth branch manager at Konica Minolta South Africa.