A melting pot of skills goes a long way in the world of work

A diversified skills set as well as work experiences are key to being employed and to have a fulfilling and rewarding career.

Key skills include digital literacy, problem solving, adaptability, critical thinking and being able to communicate effectively. While many of these essential skills which are touted for the future of work can be studied for, some are learned – and sometimes the long and arduous way.

The old adage if at first you don’t succeed try again could have been written for Denice Dumisa.

Today the 26-year-old, originally from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga but now resident in Johannesburg, is part of Astron Energy’s graduate internship programme, working at the company’s Alberton Alrode Terminal.

Three years prior he was working long hours as a petrol attendant at the Rabie Fontainbleau Caltex service station in Randburg, Johannesburg, whilst also studying towards a degree in logistics at the University of Johannesburg.

Just getting to that point had been an exercise in determination and perseverance, and some good fortune.

Dumisa had moved to Joburg and completed his primary and secondary schooling there. 

“I completed matric in 2014 but we struggled to make ends meet,” he says of this time.

However, the school leaver is blessed with a natural drive and enrolled to study Early Childhood Development part-time while he started working at a food production facility.

“However, we were retrenched and this was a very difficult moment in my life.”

“I then ended up working short stints in retail, including a furniture store, a butchery, and even started a small business collecting and selling scrap, trying everything in order to survive,” he says. 

He was forced to give up his studies due to lack of funding. It was some time after his retrenchment when he found himself in Gandhi Square, the famous Joburg landmark, where he saw and was inspired by students milling around.     

“It made me want to change the course of my life,” he recalls.

There and then Dumisa walked the seven kilometres or so to the University of Joburg’s Auckland Park campus with a view to obtaining information and registering for the academic year. 

“However, when I got there it was already closed and I was told to come back the next day.”

He returned and applied to study logistics even though he had no money for the registration fee and was forced to ask around for assistance in the area. A local businessman heard of his 

plight and paid his registration fee. 

“It was the breakthrough of my life,” he says.

He applied himself to his studies and continued to work-part time as a service station attendant at Caltex at Fontainbleu to pay his way through varsity.

In between he still had to find time to sit with his books. Many of the regular customers he came to know could scarcely believe that he was also studying. 

But where Dumisa was also learning was on the job as he took note when the fuel trucks came to deliver product and how this process was managed.

In 2020, he received links to jobs and internship programme opportunities, including at Astron Energy which manages the Caltex brand under licence.

“I picked Astron Energy,” he says. “They gave the option of a bursary or graduate internship, and I chose the graduate internship programme with a focus on logistics which I was studying at the time.”

Dumisa started the 18-month programme in July 2021. 

“I have already learned so much in the time I have been here. I have worked as an operator in the yard, ensuring tank-to-tank transfers, I have learned to drive the forklift, I have helped move product to the pipe line and how to prep the pipe line, and I have helped load product for trucks. 

“I have also seen how compliance measures are implemented and overseen. I have done invoicing and am now doing stock accounting or inventory.”

Astron Energy’s Organisational Capability, Learning and Development Manager Lindiwe Ncongwane says: “At Astron Energy we understand very well that moving forward, employees will have to be multi-skilled and extremely adaptable to stay abreast of technological advancements.

“Versatility, the ability to innovate on and in the job, and adaptability in the workplace will be core skills and this is something that we seek to bring across to all our graduate programme interns.”

Dumisa says: “I am doing what I love and I am learning so much and enhancing and broadening my skills base all the time.”

Ncongwane added: “These attributes which Dumisa has shown in his life are some of the qualities that Astron Energy and many businesses seek today because they speak to strong character development and resilience which can certainly be an asset to any organisation.” 

On working at Astron Energy, Dumisa says this is a perfect fit. “The business has the same values as myself and this feels like my family. Things such as safety, innovation, accountability and sustainability matter to me as much as it does to Astron Energy.”

He says throughout his struggles he never gave up and never stopped believing in himself. “This is what I am most proud of in my life so far, that circumstances or setbacks are no barrier to success or what you want out of life.”

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