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To develop and upskill office administrators, the Durban University of Technology Office Professionals Forum (DUT-OPF) was successfully launched at the Mansfield Hall, Ritson campus, on Friday, 25 November 2022.

This forum is led by Ms Thulile Duma, Executive Secretary to the Dean of Student Services at DUT. Ms Duma was the programme director

DUT Office Professionals Forum Chair, Ms Thulile Duma speaking at the launch.

for the day. She began by reading out a welcome message by Dr Clement Moreku, DUT Dean of Students, in his absentia. He had written the message, stepping into the big shoes of Dr Vuyo Mthethwa, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: People and Operations at DUT whom could not make it to the launch due to other work commitments.

“Unfortunately, I am not available to be with you but in spirit, I am with you. I would like to say that DUT Management recognises you, without you our offices are non-functional. We appreciate the idea of having a launch for this forum and appreciate the idea behind every effort that has been put so far to make this day a success. It is most unfortunately that we cannot be there as part of management to say to you, well done ladies and gentlemen. Well done, our office engineers and those who occupy the front desk. We are what we are, because of you,” said Dr Moreku.

He further encouraged the office professionals to embed the ENVISION2030 strategy in all that they are doing, bearing in mind the four perspectives that guide the strategy. Dr Moreku further indicated that from the DUT-OPF they are looking for big things ahead in 2023.

Delivering the purpose of the day was the DUT-OPF Deputy Chair, Ms Kershni Dhavraj, Secretary at Industrial Engineering. She began by first explaining that there was an office professionals meeting where Ms Duma was chosen as the Chair of the forum. Other Executive Committee members include: Ms Rochelle Ellary, Administrative Assistant: Financial Aid, Mr Njabulo Ngcobo, Department Secretary: Department of Fashion and Textiles, Ms Navitha Ramroop, Administrative Assistant: IT Support Services, Ms Nokuphiwa Shelembe, Executive Assistant of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement and Ms Bongiwe Chiliza, Executive Secretary: Corporate Affairs.

Dhavraj indicated that they had a secretarial forum previously but they never got it off the ground due to obstacles. However, this time around, she indicated that this forum is official and have put in place a constitution, which has been circulated to all office administrators after consultation with management.

“Our main focus is on developing and upskilling the office administrators at DUT. We are focusing on networking with other universities. We are thinking of holding our own workshops and conferences coming out of this forum. There is a R50 membership fee which everybody agreed on. It will be used for your Secretaries Day, etc .We are also looking into administration awards as well, as you know, you are not recognised for certain things that you do in the institution, accept when it is your Head of Department. The whole purpose of the forum is to expose our office administrators because we are the office engineers and the driving force being out HODs and management. We feel it is about time that were are recognised, that was the whole purpose of bringing about the forum,” explained Dhavraj.

The Chair, Ms Duma before introducing the keynote speaker, also gave a brief background on the DUT-OPF logo that shows joint sectors using the DUT colours. She explained that it represents all the office professionals that they are together, holding each other’s hands, while having an understanding that they are working for the university. Furthermore, she explained that people that are entitled to join this forum are office administrators, administrative assistants, receptionists, secretaries, executive secretaries and personal assistants.

“This is a specifically specialised field, we cannot get anyone from outside the office environment. We have consulted with Human Capital Services to please give us a database of all staff members that fall within the categories I have mentioned. We have embedded the ENVISION2030 to our constitution, that is technically to say to management is a stand-alone forum with good intentions to develop skills for our colleagues. We have approached the Skills Development office in terms of the courses that our members can do next year,” added Ms Duma.

The keynote speaker was the vibrant, Ms Carmen Cara, CEO & Founder: Powerful Virtual PA Training & Network. She spoke about her journey from being an Executive Personal Assistant at Old Mutual to having her own company that now has a database of close to 200 personal assistants. Cara applauded the committee members for establishing this forum and being part of the team that will leave a legacy behind at DUT.

“What is going to be one of your biggest challenges is to work together as a group. I have seen it and done committee work with women. It is sometimes very challenging; they challenge you on certain things that you are not sometimes prepared for. The constitution is there as your guide that what you have put in place aligns to the company’s core value. It is the fundamental principles of where you are going, what are you going to be doing and why. It is also to keep the committee and members accountable for your common goals you have in place. Remember, stepping out of your comfort zone is stepping into the magic,” said Cara.

In closing, the DUT-OPF committee members, Mr Njabulo Ngcobo thanked the keynote speaker for inspiring them to look beyond their current positions and dream big. He said he was pleased to be part of this forum that was established by the office professionals for their benefit.

Pictured: The DUT office professionals at the launch of the DUT Office Professionals Forum.

Pictured: DUT Office Professionals Forum Chair, Ms Thulile Duma speaking at the launch.

Simangele Zuma

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