In 1999, after completing a BA Honours in Human Ecology at the University of the Western Cape, Bergzicht Training and Development’s newly appointed Training Manager, Ms Monica Lekay, would complete an internship at this non-governmental organisation (NGO) that would inspire her to spend most of her working years building a career in this sector. She would return to Bergzicht in 2003 for a two-year stint teaching a guest house-focused training course and to work as a facilitator and assessor of the domestic cleaner learnership programme. On 12 September 2016, Monica’s relationship with Bergzicht came full circle with her permanent appointment as the person responsible for overseeing and helping Bergzicht develop its training operations.

“I have always been very passionate about the development of people, even when I was working in a corporate environment,” explains Lekay, who is originally from Laingsburg but now lives in Kuilsriver.
“After spending more than four years in the corporate sector, I really started to miss the immediate impact that one can make on people’s lives and that is what brought me back to the NGO environment. It’s slightly different to the corporate environment because you work so much closer with the people benefitting from the work the organisation does and you often work with real-life issues that impact on people’s lives on a daily basis. Here you can really make an impact – you can improve on the things that you are already doing and immediately put new systems in place when what you are doing is not working.”

Upon completing an internship at Bergzicht in 1999, Lekay was able to secure a position at Zanokhanyo Training Centre, an NGO based in Khayelitsha and trains women in home management. This was thanks to a recommendation from Bergzicht’s founder, Cecile Kotzé, who was highly impressed with Lekay’s commitment to delivering quality service to the organisation’s beneficiaries and helping students access learning opportunities. Four years later, due to funding constraints at Zanokhanyo, Lekay returned to Bergzicht as a Training Coordinator where she was responsible for a sponsor-dependent course focused on guest house management for guest owners from the wider Winelands district. The course offered training in reception and front of house service, providing a guest service, bedroom service and serving meals in a guesthouse, and cleaning and maintaining quality standards.

When the funding ran out for this course, Lekay became a kitchen skills training facilitator at Bergzicht, but started focusing her attention more and more on developing learnership programmes as an assessor at the organisation.

“I also became a lot more involved in the development of the unit standards for each programme,” she says.

For the next two years, she would work at Bergzicht, returning to Zanokhanyo for a short while as Training Coordinator and as Skills Development Facilitator at the NGO, Catholic Welfare and Development. For a while, she also embarked on her own as a consultant focusing on skills development facilitation, the accreditation of programmes, as well as learnership facilitation and assessment.

“I later joined Etafeni Day Care Centre, which was another NGO, and was responsible for facilitating English teaching and later managing the placement of students who completed their two-month personal development course.”

When she was offered a job as Divisional Facilitator for the Lewis Group in 2012, Lekay jumped at the opportunity. While she would no longer be working in the non-profit sector, she would be doing similar work in a corporate environment, this time overseeing Lewis’ wholesale and retail learnerships and taking responsibility for the planning and implementation of the development and operational improvement of staff from 60 branches across the different brands within the group.

Today Lekay is right back where she started her career in the NGO sector and hoping to make a difference in the lives of Bergzicht’s beneficiaries. She is working closely with the facilitators at Bergzicht to ensure that the training they offer always meets industry standards, is of a good quality and to identify where problem areas exist and how to improve in those areas in future.

“This is why the accreditation of our programmes [Bergzicht’s Health and Frail Care Programme is accredited by the Health and Welfare SETA and its Professional Cooking Programme by City & Guilds) is so important because it does not only allow our students and graduates to access a wider range of internships and jobs, but places us in a position to apply for certain resources available out there to support our work, and at the same time keep track of what is happening in the market and ensure that we stay abreast of those developments.”

“My hope is to ultimately get our beneficiaries to a point where we not only train and place them in permanent jobs, but develop career paths for them as well. Most importantly, I want to link what they are learning in class more closely to the industry and network and build collaborations with companies and other NGOs out there.”

Photo: Ms Monica Lekay was recently appointed as Bergzicht Training and Development’s Training Manager. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)