For its commitment to training, local polymer bearing manufacturer VescoPlastics received the Artisan Award at the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa’s (Seifsa’s) Awards for Excellence, which were held last month at the Industrial Development Corporation Conference Centre, in Sandton.
The Artisan Award is presented to the Seifsa-affiliated company that has been the most active in artisan training, either within the company or for the engineering industry at large.
VescoPlastics chairperson Dr Jean-Patrick Leger tells Engineering News that the company has had a strong focus on training for over two decades, providing learnership and apprenticeship programmes.
A criterion for the Artisan Award is showing how the company has invested in apprenticeships and to demonstrate the benefits this has brought to them. Leger highlights that, while VescoPlastics has 48 permanent employees, it has, in addition, 11 apprentices in training to become artisans, and another ten are qualified learners or new recruits on probation awaiting registration of their apprenticeship contracts. “This means that, for every two permanent employees, we have close to one apprentice or apprentice candidate – a training percentage of 44%,” he asserts.
Leger adds that, if all companies in South Africa committed to providing the same level of training, there would be a significant impact on the current skills deficit, with an estimated 500 000 people receiving training each year in the manufacturing sector alone.
“We have shown that it is possible, but there needs to be a different approach to training in the country,” he highlights, noting that companies are often reticent to provide training for fear that the employee will seek out other employment, resulting in companies losing out on their investment.
“This is too narrow a way of looking at the world,” says Leger.
He points out there is support from government through tax incentive programmes and there are a number of training institutions, such as technical and vocational education and training colleges and other skills education and training authorities-approved institutions that can provide the education necessary to make a difference in South Africa.
VescoPlastics skills development facilitator Christian Brumloop highlights that the company’s training programme has not only improved the skills of individuals but has also assisted in uplifting communities. “It is a passion of ours to see people grow and uplift themselves. If people are able to uplift themselves, then they are definitely going to uplift the company as well.”
He concludes that it is not only the people receiving the training that gain something and companies that do not provide training miss the point that everyone, including the company, receives some kind of benefit.