How Virgin Active South Africa is supporting young creatives

Virgin Active South Africa’s Learnership programme, created in partnership with the Red & Yellow school, is nurturing talent in its Marketing Department. Four of its protégés tell us their stories…

Liam Jacobs – Learnership focus: Creative

I’m from the Southern Suburbs in Cape Town, where I live with my mom, who is my world, and my nine-year-old baby brother. I’m an aspiring artist and creatively out of control! When I was a young child, it was evident to everyone that I was more creative than analytical – I mean, from the age of five I was dressing myself and wouldn’t allow anyone else to dress me because their taste in clothing just wasn’t on a par with mine! After Wynberg Secondary High in 2012, I applied to study Fashion Design, but unfortunately never got that opportunity. So I started working in call centres.

When I heard about the opportunity at the Red & Yellow school, I jumped at it. Virgin Active has been fantastic. The warm welcome and amazing people here boggled my mind at first – they’re not what everyone might expect in a ‘corporate business’, but Virgin Active is just awesome. Being here has helped me to learn in a practical way so many things that were taught as theory at school. That’s great for me: I’m not a theory person – but if it’s practical, I’m on it! Where I am now, with the amount of information I’ve learned, I’m happy and content with my life for the first time in a long time. I can’t thank Virgin Active and the Red & Yellow school enough for this amazing opportunity. And I can’t wait to take this out into the world and make huge waves!

Chelsea Klein – Learnership focus: Copywriting

Our relationship with Virgin Active started very early on in our Learnership – I had my interview to be an intern there within our first month. When I found out that I’d been chosen, I was stunned!

From the get-go, Virgin Active was there for us in the form of Wesley Noble. He checked up on us regularly and made us feel part of the Virgin Active family. Everybody here has been really warm, and they’re never too busy to help or answer our questions.

I’ve worked on a number of projects. My favourite is one that aims to introduce physical education back into schools and inspire young people to get active. I’m really excited about it – it’s a worthy cause and I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself. For most of my life I’ve wanted to make a difference, and I finally feel that I can; I’m really thankful for the opportunity. I do sometimes have days when I make a mistake, but it doesn’t deter me – I become more determined to learn and do better next time.

Workplace learning helps contextualise theory. Rain is a good metaphor – you can learn about rain, but you’ll never truly understand rain until you have felt the raindrops on your skin. I hope that makes sense!

Every day I come in and I can’t wait for the day ahead. Sure, there are days when I feel overwhelmed, but being here has shown me that I’m more capable than I ever imagined.

Manyano Hallom – Learnership focus: Marketing

Walking through the doors of Virgin Active for the first time was overwhelming – I was full of excitement.

At Red & Yellow, we were encouraged to ‘be a sponge’, which means you should learn as much as you can and soak up knowledge wherever you are. So when the time came to go to Virgin, I was not only ready to apply all the theory I had learned, but also ready to soak up as much as I could. Within the first week at Virgin Active, I was exposed to many things. The entire team was allowing me to engage with anything that I might be interested in.

My mentor, Wesley Noble, encourages me to get to know everybody around the office, what they do and how they do it. He’s great to work with; he is always enthusiastic and dedicated to his job, and that inspires me to work hard every day.

One of my tasks has been to launch two more new projects for our Employee Volunteer Programme, which will become part of Changing business for Good at Virgin Active. One of the projects involves cleaning up beaches around Cape Town and the other involves animal welfare – I’m grateful for the chance to be a part of them.

I didn’t know what to expect at Virgin Active, but I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to work for a global company. But with great opportunity comes great responsibility, and I’ve endeavoured to work hard and always give my best.

Precious Madutela – Learnership focus: Brand management

I was ecstatic to be selected to intern with Virgin Active, who do most of their marketing in house. Not only am I working on the client side – which I think is a plus – but I also get to experience the operations of an advertising agency within our in-house studio.

Every morning I look forward to walking into the office and getting a bright, happy greeting at reception. I couldn’t believe that the receptionist learned my name so fast; I mean, the National Head Office has hundreds of employees, and I’m just an intern, right? Well, not here. Everyone is important. Even the Managing Director unexpectedly pops up in our department, just to say hi and assure you that everything is well. That’s one of Virgin Active’s core values – to be insatiably curious, to dig deeper and become personally connected.

I immediately felt that this is a place where I can be myself.

Obviously, not every day is a walk in the park! There are days when you feel unprepared, unsure and overwhelmed with the work. But I’ve always had the courage to follow my passions – or at least, to try and fail. And the energy in the office reassures you that everything you’re feeling is OK. You’re allowed, and you’re welcome. I believe that, by the end of my five months here, I will have had the most valuable experience to get me all geared up to conquer the marketing and advertising industries


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