You may have seen us talk about our Pathways Programs before, but do you know what Pathways is and why we do it?
The Cotton On Foundation Pathways Program exists to support students beyond the high school classroom, outside the school gates, into further education and the big wide world of employment!
Globally, we’re focused on career guidance in schools and supporting students to understand who they are, what they want to do, and what they need to do to get there. We also know that these students can’t be what they can’t see, so we work hard to expose them to what’s possible not just locally, but across their country and internationally as well.
For the past two years Cotton On Foundation has offered scholarships to further education in both Thailand and Uganda (we’re working on South Africa!). These scholarships provide financial support for students to pursue either a vocational or university education by covering the costs of fees, accommodation and food. In 2020, we have 403 scholarship students following their dreams (77 in Thailand and 326 in Uganda).
While there are lots of similarities between the way we go about implementing the Pathways program globally we know that each of our supported communities is unique and therefore each requires slightly different approaches to ensure the students are given the best possible chance to succeed.
In Uganda the agriculture sector provides 70% of all employment nationally. The opportunities in agriculture are endless, and we want to expose students to what’s possible. To this end, we are developing school farming programs that foster a love for agriculture in students from a really young age. We’re implementing Student Agriculture Clubs in schools where students are given the opportunity to lead their own projects and visit local farms and processing facilities to see what agriculture looks like in the real world.
The best example of how this will come to life in Uganda is our partnership with the St Mathias Mbuye Agricultural College. We’re working with them to develop a world class agriculture college that students want to attend, providing tangible pathways for students from Cotton On Foundation supported schools to pursue a Vocational Education in agriculture.
In Thailand, the barriers that students in Cotton On Foundation supported schools face are slightly different. Being migrants, many of our supported students are unclear of their legal status in the country and therefore aren’t eligible to attend university. We work with our students to understand what their options are. We provide scholarships to universities in Myanmar, to international programs in Thailand and to Thai universities for those that are able to attend.
In South Africa we’re in the unique position that our supported communities are located a mere 15 minutes away from the nearest Cotton On Group store, and we’re taking full advantage of that! In 2021 we’re implementing a “Retail Academy” in our high school that exposes Grade 12 learners to the world of retail. We will work closely with learners to facilitate access to the basic requirements of employment (tax file numbers, bank accounts, resumes, etc.). With the support of our incredible Cotton On Group team, we will run retail training sessions to upskill learners on the basics of retail, from Visual Merchandising to customer service, and career pathways in retail. The Retail Academy experience will culminate in a real job, with learners employed as Christmas Casuals in Cotton On Group stores – from there they could go anywhere! That’s not all we have up our sleeve: we are putting a number of additional support programs in place to support the 2020 Matric cohort with pathways and access to tertiary scholarships. We will also be implementing programs for learners who want to repeat Grade 12.