An Accomplished Ambassador

The combination of having completed her General Draughting Certificate and trained as a junior draughtswoman at African Academy, together with the fact that she heads up the Alumni Committee, make Aretha Mali the ideal candidate to share her insights on the Academy in an attempt to uncover what makes her so passionate and loyally committed to promoting the Institution and its purpose to young previously disadvantaged students like herself, eager to get a marketable qualification in draughting that will ensure them an almost-guaranteed chance of employment.

Aretha’s own success story reads as a tribute to the success of the Academy in its mission to secure a 100% student



placement rate. Currently employed at Transnet Project in the Drawing Civil Design Office, Aretha has had the chance to develop her interest in civil design through her involvement in many exciting projects over her five year tenure with the company. She stays motivated and stimulated by the different daily challenges of the job. Despite regarding her draughting certificate from the Academy as a good grounding on the multi-disciplines of draughting, she sees there being ‘no school for railway design’, but that of dedicated and applied ‘on-the-job training’.

At 22, she was a full-time student at the Benoni Technical College studying Electricity when Cleo Ntsibande – a Board Member of the Academy – informed her about the Academy’s course offering and the successful post-certificate placement rate of its students, and encouraged her to go for an interview. Aretha followed his advice, liked what she saw about the Academy and quickly enrolled to train as a junior draughtswoman, where despite her focus being on civil design, she received an overview training on all aspects and domains of drafting.

Before entering the workforce in her profession, Aretha worked at the Academy in the Admin Office alongside the Academy’s current Dean, Debbie Prinsloo, where she taught computer literacy to students and filled the role of a career and course counselor. She now works voluntarily heading up the Academy’s Alumni Committee, which she thoroughly enjoys and sees as ‘a way of giving back to the Academy and the community.’

For Aretha, what distinguishes and sets the Academy apart from other institutions of its kind, is the fact that it attracts people from diverse backgrounds, and is dedicated to finding suitable positions in the workplace for every single student. More than just a place to study under sponsorship – to the students who attend its courses, the Academy is like a ‘home’. Even after graduating and entering the workforce, alumni like Aretha stay in touch with their lecturers, the Academy personnel, and each other, and look forward to the annual reunions organized by the Alumni Committee where they get to catch up, network, and stay informed of the Academy’s new course offerings, curriculums and general news.

On a personal level, Aretha attributes the confidence she has in herself and her draughting abilities to the valuable life

skills she gained from the student camps and organised guest speakers while at the Academy. She feels that the Academy is successful in structuring their curriculum with both the unique needs of their students and those of their sponsor companies in mind. The result is that they produce graduates with a unique and much-desired combination of technical and life skills, which, owing to the shortage of qualified and trained draughts people throughout the country, are highly-prized skills in the workplace.

Aretha is the only black female on the Transnet Project civil design team, and is well-accustomed to working with very senior partners. While she acknowledges that she is still learning everyday, she is comfortable with the terminology and lingo of the job, and her own ability to adapt quickly to changes in technology and process – a trait that gives her the edge over her colleagues. Aretha is a hard and dedicated worker who willingly works on weekends to gain experience and exposure to new concepts and projects. She envisions a long and fulfilling career ahead with Protekon, and commends African Academy for empowering her to make a success of her life and her career, and giving hope to other students to follow in her footsteps and do the same.