The PYDA takes some of its own advice: Quitting is never an option

The Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) is a work readiness programme for students looking to make a positive change in their lives. It focusses on both the Wine and Fruit Sectors and gives students the opportunity to attain industry-endorsed qualifications with a strong emphasis on developing the personal skills needed to succeed.

While Lockdown put paid to several NGO’s work in disadvantaged communities, the PYDA was determined to stay afloat. “Not for one second did we contemplate closing down for Lockdown,” says Executive Director Nikki Munro who applauds both the staff and sponsors who creatively and enthusiastically ensured that this valuable programme kept going.

“Our students don’t possess computers and neither do they have access to Wi-Fi, in fact some of them do not even have electricity at home,” Munro continues. The solution initially was to move everything to WhatsApp with the facilitators forming groups and checking in with every student daily.

“We all thought this would be a temporary break, but by July we realised we had to make a more sustainable solution. Our funders were amazing and provided every student with a laptop, router and data. Stellenbosch University also converted their wine tasting course to an on-line version.

Kwanele Nhlobo grew up in the Eastern Cape where he matriculated in 2014. He was unable to find a place to study, or get a job, so his brother suggested he join him in Grabouw in the Cape Winelands. It was there that he heard about the PYDA programme and duly applied. “The selection process was very tough,” he says, “so I was over-joyed when I got accepted.”

The PYDA gave Nhlobo a small stipend which helped towards rent and transport and he got stuck into his studies: “I was always more of a beer person than a wine person, but now I know so much more. Wine is not just alcohol, it is about enjoying each moment of what you smell and taste in the glass.”

Nhlobo maintains though, that the greatest benefit for him was personal growth. “I used to point fingers at other people. I used to expect people to rescue me. But now I know I need to help myself.”

Oak Valley has offered Nhlobo an internship in their cellar once harvest begins, but in the meantime he is selling tickets to the public for their Mountain Bike Trails on the weekend. “I am pleased that they can trust me to handle money, and I have the responsibility of talking to the visitors and making sure they know where to go and what to do.”

Munro backs this up: “The personal skills training our students receive equips them with excellent people skills. They are generally really good at customer service, sales and marketing and building relationships, which helps them get a job in the first place. Many get jobs in wine tasting centres, but others prefer to work hands-on in the cellar or in administration.”

“I am really proud of myself for graduating from the PYDA,” says Nhlobo with a broad grin. “My parents are proud of me, but I am way more proud of myself. I am the first graduate in my family and I have big plans. I want to be a role model for my son, and I want to travel the world giving wine tastings on cruise ships. PYDA was the first step to my future.”


Both Shannon Strauss and Daryl Stoffels are also the first graduates in their families. They both grew up in Paarl and have joined the cellar team on Bosman Family Vineyards in nearby Wellington where they are readying the cellar for the harvest.

“For me the most important part of this course was personal development,” says Strauss. “I used to be shy, but I am not shy any more. We had to give presentations to our fellow students and facilitators every week, so we got better and better at communicating. We were forced out of our comfort zones and learnt how to work with people.”

While Strauss is grateful for the opportunity to work in the cellar and learn hands-on about winemaking, he sees himself getting into the marketing and sales side of wine. “Maybe I can one day make wine and sell it under my own label.”

Stoffels sees himself working more on the practical side: “I prefer to work behind the scenes in the cellar than working with people. I am not really a talker, but more of a practical person.”

“The most important thing I learnt at PYDA was perseverance,” he says. “We had to set ourselves goals at the beginning of the year before Covid-19 changed everything, but then we had to work extra hard to make those goals a reality.”

“My mother was very emotional at my graduation, because she was so proud of me for reaching above my circumstances and achieving my dream. I have an older brother who is in jail, and many people expected me to go the same way. At PYDA I learnt to believe in myself and to reject the negative. That took a lot of perseverance but I am here and I am looking forward to harvest next week and working in the wine industry.”


Daryl Stoffels & Shannon Strauss


- Blog by Julia Moore