As the population of South Africa grows and the pressure on the health system increases, pharmacy jobs are in demand and trained pharmacy professionals are increasingly becoming a hot commodity. There is great potential for advancement and competitive salaries within a pharmacy career.
"Pharmacy has always been an exciting and rewarding career and has recently become one of the most pursued fields in the healthcare industry," says Willie Jordaan, head of Professional Services at Clicks.
"The race is on to grow the profession, and at Clicks, we are seizing this opportunity with both hands. Our in-house Pharmacy Healthcare Academy continues to develop pharmacy skills and in the past financial year trained over 550 pharmacist assistants. We have also developed an attractive bursary programme and continue to work closely with local universities to develop future talent."
"There are currently 50 students on the programme, three times more than last year," says Mary Griffiths, Head of HR for Clicks. "The bursary programme started in 2007, and this year for the first time we have opened it to first year students.
"Besides the tuition fees, we are offering a whole range of other benefits as well,” she said.
The Clicks bursary is for R30 000 each year, more than sufficient to cover tuition and books. In addition, the students are guaranteed well-paid holiday work as well as a place to complete their internship. The bursars are given permanent staff benefits including pension and a staff card, from their internship year.
"This is just so much more than a bursary. It is a long-term relationship. I wish more people knew about it," says Phumeza Mlonsi, a fourth year student at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.
"I see it as a really positive partnership in my life. It is logical to try to get a bursary from the place where you would like to work, so by the time you are ready to enter the job market you know their system."
"I enjoy working at Clicks," said Phumeza, who is also a leading light in PEPSA, the PE Pharmacy Students’ Association. "I am interested in pharmacy management, and there is huge scope for that in a big organisation like Clicks."
Phumeza said she decided to study pharmacy because she likes the business aspects of running a pharmacy.
Clicks has also reassessed its internship year and decided to make it a little easier.
"We realised it wasn’t fair to take them straight from a student life to an intense working week," said Mary. "From this year we have dropped the hours to 40, including just one weekend a month. Previously they worked a 45-hour week as well as two weekends.
“After their community service year our bursars come back to us to work for the number of years that we have funded them,” Mary explained. “We hope that many of them will choose to stay on and build their future with us.”
For many students, the bursary has been the difference between completing their degree and giving up on their dream.
“I was desperate. I knew if I didn’t get a bursary I would have had to leave university. My dreams would be over. I have always known that I would be a pharmacist. The business of health fascinates me, and working in a pharmacy is fun because it is different every day.”
These are the words of Carien Els, a fourth year Pharmacology student at North West University’s Potchefstroom campus. The good news for Carien is that she not only received a bursary from Clicks, but the company also bought an extra year so that she could pay off her loan.
An enthusiastic recipient of a Clicks bursary is Jaco van der Merwe, a second year student at North West University.
“It has just taken all my worries away,” he said. “I know that when I am finished studying I am guaranteed a job, and I’ll be working for a company which offers great opportunities for advancement. And I am looking forward to the extra cash I’ll be earning in the holidays - that really makes a difference.”
Clicks also offers one-on-one tuition for any of their bursars who are struggling with a subject.
“A number of our pharmacists have offered to provide tuition to the students, either face-to-face or over the phone,” Mary said.
“We work very closely with the students and their families to see how we can make life easier for our bursars. It’s about helping them get a sound grounding in Pharmacy, as well as access to vital life skills that will equip them in whichever area of the industry they wish to work in future.”
South Africa’s largest retail pharmacy chain, Clicks, is the largest employer of pharmacists within the retail sector. The company has a national footprint of over 380 stores with 270 in-store dispensaries.
For more information about the Clicks Pharmacy Internship Programme for 2011/12 contact Andrea Brown on (021) 460 1369 or e-mail us at email@example.com one of the Clicks Recruitment Consultants will contact you.
(Press release, Clicks, July 2011)