Spirited graduates of Pinotage Youth Academy’s ‘Class of 2018’ embrace their future

by | Nov 21, 2018 | Blog, Lifestyle, News

On 16 November 2018 the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) celebrated the graduation of another group of talented young people into the wine industry. Bronwen Shaw chats to PYDA executive director Nikki Munro about developing young talent and preparing them for employment within the wine industry.

PYDA executive director, Nikki Munro.

Based in the Cape Winelands, the PYDA develops the capacity of young and talented South Africans to prepare them for employment within the wine industry and related sectors, such as hospitality and tourism. PYDA started through a chance meeting with a young man in a tasting room in Franschhoek.

The two Academy Directors who met him listened to his story, which is the story of so many young people in our country. He loved working in the wine industry but was unable to access tertiary education to develop his skills and further his career. On their return to the UK, the Directors pitched the concept of an Academy that would train and develop young men and women who couldn’t afford to further educate themselves, to the Foundation board they were on- the Cropper Foundation (dhccf.org) which works to benefit young South Africans. The idea gathered momentum and soon enough their dream had materialised. The academy began in 2013 with 3 staff members and a class of 25 students. Since then, they have graduated 211 young men and women.

In the spirit of the Pinotage Youth Development Academy’s moving Graduation ceremony on Friday, we had the opportunity to speak to Nikki Munro, the PYDA Executive Director, about her experiences working with this incredible young talent being introduced into the Wine Industry from the Academy every year.

Q: What is your role here at PYDA?

NM: I joined the Academy in August 2012 to take the theory and research and ‘make it happen’. We are a small NPC (Not For Profit Company) with a team of six full time and one part time staff, so we all do whatever is needed.  Formally, I am the executive director and my focus is on strategic interventions that will help PYDA to continue to grow by engaging stakeholders, researching growth models and overseeing implementation. I have oversight across all programmes and work with the team to ensure programmes remain relevant and focussed to ensure that our students and graduates have the best chance of securing employment in their chosen career path. 

Q: What have been some of your biggest challenges in getting PYDA to where it is today?

NM: The context within which we operate is changing extremely slowly.  Although the students are transformed and able to navigate challenges, it is tragic for me that they have to! There are ongoing barriers to entry and growth, not least a challenge such as transport.  There are also deep psycho-social challenges and family commitments that put a huge responsibility on young people.  In some instances we have huge industry pull, partnerships and support for our students, and then in other pockets we have no support or pull whatsoever.

WineLand Media attended the graduation. Watch the video here:

Q: Can you highlight some of your greatest success stories?

NM: In my opinion, every one of our graduate are incredible success stories. However, there is one example I’d like to highlight: Shannon Fortuin graduated in May 2016, works permanently at La Motte, and has just achieved merit in the WSET Level 3 exams which puts her on a path to achieve her dream of being a sommelier. It’s the highest level achieved by a PYDA graduate to date. Shannon travelled from Franschhoek to the Academy every morning, getting up at 5am and often only getting home at 7pm. Despite this she had near perfect attendance and was fully engaged with each component of the programme. Shannon was one of the strongest people and influencers in her class, who showed clarity of vision, great commitment with a very firm hold on her dream for a better future for herself and her family. She discovered a passion for wine and for customer service through the programme. She consistently scored above 80% for all her modules and this culminated into her unique and amazing way of telling the story of wine.  Shannon has found her place in the wine sector and describes wine as a “combination of science and magic”. Shannon has already been able to improve her living conditions and buy a house for her extended family through driving a savings programme by all. A new graduate, Flordeliza Jansen  is part of the extended family and a trailblazer in her own right.

Q: What has been the significance of this programme in your own life?

NM: I am an extremely passionate South African and believe we all need to work actively to redress and build a truly inclusive world. My personal purpose is to connect all people meaningfully and to create environments where people can be the very best version of themselves. I was able to create the organisation based on these personal beliefs and values and am so happy to live in the talent and energy of connected South Africans every day. The high energy of having between up to 75 18 to 25 year olds in the building at any point also helps.

Q: What are your hopes for PYDA in the future?

NM: While we have had a significant impact to date, there is much more work to be done.  We hope to grow our impact through extending the current model and it is my hope that the industries within which we operate take even more ownership.  It is also my hope that as change leaders we will work with others across sectors to innovate and make systemic change happen faster.

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