2.3 Divisions and departments
The head office of TRAC is located in the Engineering Faculty at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. The head office staff comprise the Executive Director, an Administrations Manager, an Office Assistant, as well as a Content Manager.
TRAC operations function within three geographical regions, aptly named TRAC Ithuba (translated as opportunity), TRAC Phumelela (translated as success), and TRAC Mpilo (translated as life). On Figure 1, the three regions are depicted as green (TRAC Phumelela), orange (TRAC Ithuba), and magenta (TRAC Mpilo) dots.
Each of these regions are supervised by a TRAC Regional Manager.
TRACs operational staff complement comprises 18 Learning Facilitators (LFs), performing their operations in the locations as depicted in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1 Map depicting location of TRAC operations, so-called TRAC points (TRAC, 2019)
2.4 Available services
2.4.1 TRAC Methodology
In each of the 18 TRAC points, grade 11 and 12 learners from five schools form part of the TRAC programme. The TRAC programme operates in these schools from Monday to Friday from 08:00 until 16:30. The LF, a fulltime TRAC staff member, responsible for the TRAC point and accountable to all stakeholders, will spend a full day each week at each of the five schools.
TRAC experiments for the grade 11 and 12 Physical Science curriculum, together with the associated worksheets are made available to the learners and educators who are part of the TRAC programme. TRAC implements an approach of utilizing computer technology (which involves a laptop, an interface as well as sensory equipment) to enhance and simplify the execution and understanding of the practical component of the Physical Science curriculum (Olivier, 2018).
Figure 2 TRACs didactic methodology incorporates technology into the learning process
True to its mission statement of enabling and motivating the beneficiaries to take ownership for a successful future, TRAC also assists the learners on aspects such as writing CVs, completing application forms (bursary & tertiary institutions) and interview skills, but to mention a few. Two hours in each working day is devoted to assisting learners with vocational guidance (in group and individual basis), skills testing, applications to suitable and relevant tertiary institutions, and applications for tertiary study funding.
2.4.2 TRAC Beneficiary Package
Curriculum-based experiential Physical Science and applicable Mathematics academic learner intervention sessions during school terms, complimented by revision and weekend classes;
Focused Physical Science academic intervention during school holiday periods;
Several tests progress, pre- and post-tests are also written to evaluate learners understanding of concepts, and to monitoring and mentoring of learner progress.
Vocational guidance programs which consist of interviews, career testing, guidance in terms of suitable tertiary studies;
Facilitation of the applications of grade 12 learners to tertiary institutions for suitable tertiary studies;
Assistance to grade 12 learners in obtaining funding for tertiary studies;
The concerned educator(s) is/are part of all the lessons during TRAC visits to the school (TRAC South Africa, 2018).
3. Vacation work undertaken
To keep the financial partner fully informed of the TRAC operations, thereby ensuring that TRAC outcomes are aligned to the expectations of the financial partners, reporting of such operations are of paramount importance (Olivier, 2018).
Monitoring of TRAC operations take place via remote management mechanisms. A significant challenge of managing staff remotely is ensuring they complete all their responsibilities on time, efficiently, and up to standard (Hubstaff, 2019). Managing staff who work remotely lead to two main challenges for managers: ensuring that designated work is completed, but more so, that time is efficiently, effectively, and appropriately utilised (Business News Daily, 2019; Hubstaff, 2019).
At the end of each academic year, in preparation for the next year, the current monitoring mechanisms are evaluated and improved, where necessary. At the end of each month, staff are required to report to TRAC management on their daily activities, complete and submit travel log records, and submit claims for general expenses incurred in the performing of their duties (Olivier, 2018).
During the vacation work undertaken, the student was tasked with the responsibility to evaluate the abovementioned mechanisms, suggest and implement improvements, and prepare the said documentation for use in the following academic year.
3.1 Individual TRAC Points – Daily Activity Reporting
As certain financial partners fund the operations of more than one TRAC point, it is of importance to utilise a reporting documents which is standardised yet reflects all the required information for reporting and monitoring purposes. The information in this document is included in reports to financial partners. But perhaps more important, especially from an operational point of view, it is utilised by the TRAC management team. The management team utilises it to monitor whether the activities of TRAC LFs adhere to the human resources working hour requirements of Stellenbosch University, are aligned with the DBE curriculum pacesetter schedules, and ensure fair beneficiary exposure to the five schools on the TRAC programme in each TRAC point. It is also important that, in the event of a new TRAC point being established, a master document can be utilised with minor changes to make it a tailor-made document for the new point (Loubser, 2018).
The following factors were included in the data input section of the daily reporting document (Figure 3):
Drop-down lists in the DATE, ACTIVITY, SCHOOL or LOCATION, GRADE, and ACADEMIC ACTIVITY TYPE columns. The advantages of eliciting a response from the LF in this way are that it is simpler to select an option than to type information into a cell, it reduces the number of typing errors made, prevents inconsistent formatting of dates, and it gives TRAC management the option to populate the entries with different information as and when the need arises (Excel-2010, 2013; Excel Skills Society, 2019).
Data filters were included in each column since TRAC management expressed the need to be able to easily view whether the LF was adhering to the curriculum schedule and the daily visitation schedule at the schools.
Figure 3 Daily Activity Reporting Input Section
Summary sections were created to assist TRAC management to, at a glance, determine whether equally distributed intervention was taking place amongst the beneficiary schools, to monitor that the vocational guidance focus of the TRAC programme is completed fairly and as per schedule, and to ensure that the curriculum addressed was optimised and addressed as per schedule (Figure 4).
Figure 4 Daily Activity Reporting Summary Section
3.2 Collective TRAC Points – Monthly Reporting
For TRAC management to review each months operational activities, a summary document is utilised. The document for 2019 was prepared, but at the same time improvements were suggested, accepted and implemented. This document consists almost entirely of hyperlinks to the individual daily activity reporting documents of the different TRAC points, hence ensuring that the summary document is always updated with the latest data as captured on a daily basis.
The following graphs were included in the summary document:
A stacked graph, Monthly Activity Distribution (Figure 5), which depicts the number of working days in the month which was allocated to the activities listed in the left-hand column of Table 2. The value of a graphical representation of these data values lies in the fact that the TRAC management team can quickly pick up on discrepancies, such as the LF spending more than the allocated time doing administrative tasks, performing too little or too much academic intervention or vocational guidance per schedule. The number of working days available in the month is indicated by means of a line graph, making it very simple to ascertain whether the LF has worked the required working hours in the month.
Figure 5 Time-based stacked graph depicting the LFs distribution of working hours
TRAC management had the need to ascertain whether the beneficiaries are not only exposed to similar, aptly distributed academic intervention. A histogram, Academic Activity Distribution (Figure 6), was included which indicates the distribution of the academic aspects of the intervention. This graph should be able to assist the TRAC management to ascertain whether the TRAC activities were optimally implemented, how many non-TRAC Physical Science experiments were conducted, and give an indication of how many times the LF addressed mathematical concepts.
Figure 6 Overview of Academic Intervention Distribution
The Vocational Guidance focus of the TRAC program consists of four key focus areas. The first would be a process whereby learners are informed about what their options are in terms of tertiary studies, the requirements for such, and where such tertiary studies can be pursued. After such information sessions, skills testing is performed, followed by individual or group interviews to align the learners skills and abilities with their interests. Lastly, the LFs utilised this information to facilitate an intensive process for each learner of applying for tertiary studies with at least three tertiary institutions and applying for bursaries. As the vocational guidance focus is directly linked to their vision of eradicating poverty, it is of importance for the TRAC management to be able to determine whether any one of these aspects are not neglected at any given time in the year. A histogram, Vocational Guidance Activity Distribution (Figure 7), was designed to visualise the distribution of the key areas of this focus.
Figure 7 Overview of Vocational Guidance Focus Breakdown
The final graph setup was again a stacked bar chart, Combined Activity Distribution (Figure 8), giving the TRAC management an overall view of the distribution of the LFs activities. This graph would be helpful in determining whether all beneficiaries receive the correct balance of academic and vocational guidance intervention.
Figure 8 Overview of Activity Breakdown
3.3 Travel Logging & Reporting
Travel between home and work (office) are not claimable as official trips. However, currently, in the case of LFs, SARS regulations allow travel from home to work claims, as the home of the LF is utilized as his/her office for doing administrative work. The travel log claim form is completed monthly utilising the data/information as presented by the Tracker report.
TRAC reimburses a LF for official trips, as a non-taxable benefit up to a maximum of 8 000 kilometres per year. The reimbursement rate is determined periodically by Stellenbosch University, and is determined by the relevant engine capacity of the officially listed (Tracker-fitted) vehicle. In the event where the staff member claims official trips driven with a non-Tracker vehicle, the minimum rate will be applicable. An average of 8 000/12 kilometres (667 kilometres) is paid out per any given month. A situation could arise where kilometres claimed for official trips are not paid out, because it exceeds the monthly or annual maximum. Each TRAC point has a limited travel budget which is not to be exceeded.
The following amendments were suggested and effected to this document (Figure 9):
Drop-down lists were introduced in the DATE and TRIP PURPOSE columns. The travel compensation is to be non-taxable, it is of importance that the explanation of the purpose of the official trips complies with regulations of SARS. It is for this reason that the decision was made to limit the options. Allowing the LFs to type in their own information, could very well lead to non-compliance.
A running total was included, which is auto-filled in red when a total of 667 kilometres for the month is reached. This clearly indicates to the administration manager which trips will be reimbursed, and which are carried forward to the next payment period.
A table, which acts as a rate and amount verification, was included to the right of the trip details. The first column is auto-filled with the engine size of the Tracker-fitted vehicle. The rate is incorporated into this workbook by means of a lookup & reference formula to a cloud-based document. In this way, only one point of update is necessary when the SU changes the rates. Furthermore, determining the payment per trip, but also the total for the payable trips, allows the TRAC management to easily compare the amount with that on the requisition.
Figure 9 Travel Logging & Report Document
3.4 Activity Reporting Recommendations
Several challenges were identified with the current activity tracking system utilised by TRAC.
Each LFs vehicle is fitted with a tracking device. Tracker reports are generated weekly by the administrative manager, distributed to the LFs, where after they enter the arrival and departure times into the activity report workbook. The tracker reports are also utilised to complete the distances travelled in doing official trips. Not only are the tracker devices costly, but there is much room for error when copying data from one source to another.
The authenticity of the activity reports is questionable, as it relies on retrospective entries by the same person whose activities and movements are being monitored. Furthermore, corrective action is delayed, as the activity reporting is only monitor weekly.
The student suggests that TRAC considers utilising a cloud-based productivity, GPS-enabled, and geo-fencing tracking application which runs on the mobile phones of the LFs. Certain available applications use facial recognition to ensure that the person logging on is in fact the LF (Seamfix, 2019). The current expenditure on the vehicle tracking system amounts to R8622.50 monthly. Applications evaluated that could potentially be utilised for the purposes required by TRAC, range from R 2831.00 to R 3500.00 per month (Desktime, 2019; Hubstaff, 2019; Seamfix, 2019).
The additional benefits of utilising a cloud-based facial-recognition, GPS-enabled productivity tracking system is as follows (Desktime, 2019; Hubstaff, 2019; Seamfix, 2019):
Only employees can clock in from any location (they cannot be impersonated or helped to clock in);
Real-time geo-location data of the LFs mobile phone eliminates human error when entering location data on activity report;
Accurate time-stamped data prevents errors occurring when copying arrival and departure times from vehicle tracking reports;
Cloud-based data collection even when there is no internet connectivity. The captured data synchronises automatically when the internet connection is restored.
Activities of employees in different locations can be controlled and monitored on an administrative dashboard in real time.
Activity reports can be customised to suit the needs of TRAC management and the financial partners.
4. Vacation work witnessed
4.1 Technological Asset Management
During a discussion to bring the asset register up to date for the year-end, it became apparent that TRAC experiences challenges to keep track of their assets. Each TRAC point is involved with approximately 500 school learners. As part of the operations in each of the 18 TRAC points, 7 laptops are utilised by the learners daily. Each TRAC point also utilises a projector for presentation of lesson topics. Furthermore, the office-based staff also utilise laptops. These offices are also equipped with printers, scanners, and other technological equipment. TRAC currently utilises the asset management software of Stellenbosch University. At the beginning of each year, those assets which are not necessarily constantly utilised at the TRAC head office location, are booked out in transit. The system does not cater for the checking in and out of equipment for maintenance to and from the head office. There is also no provision to create a track record of maintenance work done on specific equipment. As the location of TRAC points are fluid (dependent upon the funding of donors, who determine the areas operation), it has been difficult to keep a record of which assets are used in which locations. It came to light that there were 27 items on the asset register that were unaccounted for either the asset manager did not know whether it had already been written off, or he was unaware of the location where the asset was being utilised. It is evident that an ad-hoc, rather than a proactive stance with regards to asset management was being implemented (Park Place Technologies, 2019).
4.2 Asset Management Recommendation
It is recommended that TRAC implements a software-based asset management system. Having an accurate acquisition history and knowledge of what is deployed to the different TRAC points will empower the organisation to identify trends and manage risk (AER Worldwide, 2016; Corporate Finance Institute, 2019). The added benefit would be that TRAC would be able to accurately forecast IT needs and budgets an aspect crucial in the NPO environment (Park Place Technologies, 2019). The organisation can save money on maintenance of specifically the laptops, by carefully monitoring the maintenance frequency and details during the operational life cycle of each asset (AER Worldwide, 2016). The utilisation of asset management software will enable TRAC to remove ghost assets from the organisations inventory, eliminating the possibility that lost, scrapped or stolen assets are still in the inventory records (AER Worldwide, 2016).
The TRAC approach is to make computer-based technology and curriculum relevant content available to learners and educators throughout South Africa by means of funding from financial partners. During the 20-day tenure at TRAC, valuable experience was gained regarding the management of an NPO, but more so, an organisation who operates mostly by remote management. The tasks that were performed re-enforced existing knowledge while enabling additional learning in several areas. It was also evident that the organisation could streamline a number of its key functions, aiding the authenticity of their reporting to the donors, assisting in