Graduated from adversity to wine advisor

Tuesday, 2 April, 2013
Cape Wine Academy
In an effort to stimulate employment within the wine and hospitality industry in South Africa and to raise the standard of service within the tourism sector, the Cape Wine Academy and the Department of Tourism launched the Level 1 Cape Sommelier™ Programme in March 2012.
Two hundred previously-disadvantaged and unemployed youth between the ages of 18 and 34 were originally chosen from townships within the Cape and Gauteng regions, to gain the Wine Advisors - level 1 Cape Sommelier™ qualification. The training centres were in Soweto, Tembisa, Mitchell's Plain, Gugulethu and Langa.  

On graduation day in late February 2013, in both provinces, the initiative finally armed 86 very happy graduates from Gauteng and 68 from the Western Cape with their well-earned certificates to enter into hospitality tourism at any sector.

Several of the graduates, officially called 'Wine Advisors', have already entered the workplace contributing to the overall development of the hospitality tourism sector. Western Cape learners Handre Saaiman, Nomtibuzethu "Zethu" Kama and Patience Mvenga are three of these enthusiastic students who have benefited from the programme.

Somerset West resident Handre Saaiman had been unemployed for 5 months before finding out about the Cape Wine Academy Sommelier Level 1 Programme. Handre currently works alongside his brother Gustav (both graduates of the programme) at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West as a banquet assistant and waiter in the hotel restaurant. "I fell in love with wine and the industry; I have more confidence in myself," says Handre when asked about the impact of the sommelier programme on his life. Handre aspires to one day be a Food and Beverage Manager for a hotel.

Nomtibuzethu "Zethu" Kama studied her level 1 Cape Sommelier programme in Gugulethu after reading about the programme in a local newspaper. With little prior knowledge of the wine industry, Nomtibuzethu enjoyed the wine tasting module of the training and hopes to one day work in the wine export sector. After three years of unemployment, the Level 1 Cape Sommelier™ programme helped Nomtibuzethu land a job working for Event Management Company, espAFRICA.

Patience Mvenga gained employment at Hollow on the Square following 5 months of unemployment prior to enrolling in the Level 1 Cape Sommelier™ programme, which she read about in a local newspaper. In the next five years, she aims to find work in the hospitality sector on a cruise ship and believes that the programme has helped her become a "hard worker and a good listener".

Gauteng graduates Rowena Setle, Thalitha Nong and Evans Mashaba have also benefited from the Sommelier programme. Currently employed as a sales rep for Nixan Wines, Rowena Setle attended her classes at Risuna primary school in Mofolo Soweto and did her practical work at Vinimark, Southern Sun Montecasino Hotel, and Checkers, Horizon View.

Similarly to Rowena, Thalitha Nong, studied in Soweto and completed her practical course component at Nicholsen Smith, Southern Sun Montecasino Hotel, and Checkers in Roodeport. She is currently employed as a receptionist at the Southern Sun Montecasino Hotel.

Evans Mashaba completed his practical component of the course at Smollens, The Palazzo Hotel, Checkers in Emmarentia, and Tops at Spar. Following his completion of the programme he found employment at Simply Asia Restaurant in Southdown, Centurion.

Says Melinda van Staden, Conference Manager for Cape Town Hollow on the Square, "I deeply believe in the Cape Wine Academy Level 1 Training Programme. Not only has this programme given a fantastic opportunity to the young and talented South-African youth, it has also enriched and enhanced the standard level of the South African Hospitality industry. The Cape Wine Academy students have been a pleasure to work with, not only are they friendly and enthusiastic, but they were a fantastic addition to my team, even if it was only for a while whilst doing their practicals. Based on the level of excellence of these students, I have now employed some of the Cape Wine Academy Graduates and plan on doing so again in the future. Thank you, Cape Wine Academy, and I urge you to keep up the excellent work."

Says Marilyn Cooper, a Cape Wine Master and CEO of the Cape Wine Academy, "TheWine Advisor - Level 1 Cape Sommelier™ Programme has been a most rewarding project. We saw young, unemployed youths come in and educated, enthusiastic grownups leave, ready to take on what the world has to offer. We would like to thank all the hospitality and retail companies that took on these students for their practicals. Your input was invaluable. Now it's time to employ these well-qualified students within the wine, retail and hospitality industries."

If you would like to employ, interview or have a chat to our fully-trained graduates in Gauteng or in the Cape, please phone Sibongile Khumalo, the Project Manager for the course, at +27.11 024 3616 or e-mail her on

Photo caption: At the final graduation was (L-R) Prof Jane Spowart, University of Johannesburg; Marilyn Cooper, CEO Cape Wine Academy; Hein Koegelenberg, Chairman of the Cape Wine Academy Board; Rinah Jonga, Department of Tourism

Click here to view the photo album.
(L-R) Prof Jane Spowart, Univ of Johannesburg; Marilyn Cooper, CEO CWA; Hein Koegelenberg, Chairman
(L-R) Prof Jane Spowart, Univ of Johannesburg; Marilyn Cooper, CEO CWA; Hein Koegelenberg, Chairman

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