Karin Fuchsloch started CareerPlanet.co.za because she wanted to make a difference to the huge unemployment rate in South Africa. Youth unemployment is the most pressing socio-economic problem in South Africa today because it brings with it poverty, crime, violence, loss of dignity and morale.
Fuchsloch never planned on becoming an entrepreneur, but it seems that every position she held along the way prepared her for the opportunity she now has with Career Planet, an award-winning NGO focusing on reducing unemployment in South Africa.
"All my life's learning has prepared me for this role," says Fuchsloch, "Through various roles I had in the past I learned the value of training, development and how technology can bring people together. A few years ago, while working on a project to encourage more girls to consider IT as a career choice, I realised that there is no centralised and accessible resource where people can find information on the latest jobs, bursaries, learnerships, internships, career advice and other life-changing opportunities, and this made me absolutely determined to come up with an innovative way of bringing all of this together, and making a difference in South Africa."
After many years of working for corporate and NGO sectors, as well as starting her own small businesses, she decided to take a chance and live out her dream by doing something that she believed would create positive change in South Africa and build a cycle of hope for a generation of youth that is facing a bleak economic future.
"Education and skills"
"Small businesses are one of the solutions to South Africa's unemployment challenges, but our people need education and skills," says Fuchsloch. "Teens also need to choose the right subjects at school so that they are able to prepare for the career path that they wish to take. This is where the idea of Career Planet was born."
Leaving the security of being employed was a big gamble, especially since she was a breadwinner, with a family to consider. Even more frightening at the time was taking a large personal loan to finance the start of Career Planet and praying that others would see and share her vision, but after many months of research and planning, the Career Planet website and mobile units were born. These mobile units helped change the lives of thousands of people in the Western Cape. But her dream was bigger, she wanted to reach and help more people. In 2011 she partnered with the DG Murray Trust and with their support she was able to take her dream to the next level in the development of a new website, mobisite and USSD phone application. Now Career Planet is able to offer a host of opportunities as well as free e-learning to youth across South Africa
"The situation in South Africa could be improved if entrepreneurship was taught and promoted at schools and encouraged as a way of life," says Fuchsloch. "Entrepreneurial thinking does not only have to apply to people starting their own businesses. It is also equally important when you are employed by someone else. Thinking like an entrepreneur adds value to the company by suggesting innovative ways to improve aspects of the business and grow profits."
"I believe that if it's meant to be, then it's meant to be," she says. "Setting up the websites has been challenging and took a lot of hard work, but when you are passionate about something, you will see it through to the end no matter what it takes."
It hasn't all been easy. In 2010 Fuchsloch lost her funding during the World Cup and was forced to retrench most of her staff, paying the few remaining ones out of her own pocket. "While it was a difficult time, I am so glad I didn't give up. The reward is knowing that what we are doing is fundamentally changing the lives of people who would not otherwise have had access to opportunities."
"I get my inspiration from the child who walks 15km every day just to get to school; the mother and father who get up at 4am to work three jobs to support their children; the teenager who looks after their siblings by doing odd jobs. These are the people who inspire me to make a difference in South Africa and to carry on, no matter how tough it is."
"My passion for my work sometimes makes me forget about boundaries and my family have to remind me that I am not surgically attached to my laptop," says Fuchsloch. "My message to anyone with a dream is: Never feel that you have to try to be something or someone else. Keep the passion alive through the hard times by telling yourself that it is what it is, and the hardships will soon pass. Then pick yourself up and bounce back. Learn to listen to advice but never let anyone crush your dreams.
For more, go to www.careerplanet.co.za.