Starting a new job mere weeks before a pandemic is challenging; being put in charge of establishing your new employer’s Covid-19 testing and vaccination centres is another adventure altogether.
This was the experience of Nakedi Nkoana, 30, when she joined Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) on 1 March 2020, in the same month that South Africa went into its first national lockdown to protect the country from Covid-19.
Nakedi, who works as a Project Engineer (Architecture) at VWSA, was quickly charged with establishing a facility where the company’s Wellness team could perform Covid-19 tests for employees at the Kariega plant.
“We worked with a quick turnaround time for the testing facility; it was done within a month,” said Nakedi. “I have a background in architecture but there was a lot to learn on the medical side. The project served as my orientation.”
The testing site, which was set up in the VW AutoPavilion parking lot adjacent to the Kariega plant, has performed nearly 8 000 tests to date. This included the testing of all Kariega employees before they returned to work in January 2021.
However, Nakedi’s work to protect her colleagues from Covid-19 did not stop there. At the start of this year she began planning for the VWSA Vaccination Centre at the PeoplePavilion, where more than 3 000 vaccines have been administered to date. The centre opened to employees on 2 August and has since expanded its operations to include service providers, loved ones of VWSA employees, and even members of the wider public.
“I became involved with this quite early on, and we were on a very tight schedule. It started with a concept for the centre in February, which was approved by the Board of Management in April, and after we received the approval for funding it was only one month until we had our site inspection so we could open.”
Though she encountered some challenges along the way, Nakedi considers these projects as “an adventure”. “It was really good for me, to be able to do something to contribute to the fight against Covid-19. This was a team effort at every step, and I received consistent, invaluable support from colleagues across different departments to make these facilities a reality. I am very proud of what the difference we’ve made here.”
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, our employees have made the company proud through their innovation and their dedication to the fight against Covid-19,” said Dr Robert Cisek, VWSA Chairman and Managing Director. “I commend every employee who has been involved in establishing and running our testing facility and vaccination centre, as they have been instrumental in the difference VWSA has made in protecting the community from the virus.”