The scarcity of appropriately skilled technicians in the automotive sector has spurred Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) to extend its involvement in the training of technicians by initiating a technical learnership at St Anthony’s Education Centre (SAEC), in Boksburg.
The three-year pilot programme sees the motor manufacturer collaborating with the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Merseta) and St Anthony’s to provide National Qualifications Framework Level 3 learnerships for an initial intake of 24 learners from the Reigerpark community.
Speaking at the launch of the learnership, MBSA dealer training manager Stephnie Klaasen said the nationally recognised qualification would be sponsored by MBSA and Merseta, providing about R105 000 a year for each student. About R1.4-million a year will be made available, with St Anthony’s staff providing the training competence for the theoretical part of the programme.
MBSA has enlisted the assistance of its dealer network, which comprises 87 dealerships across the country, to expose the learners to the workplace and provide on-the-job training.
Each learner will have the opportunity to be mentored by a dealership for four months. During this time, they will complete their portfolio of evidence for their final assessments, putting theoretical studies into practice. The learners receive a stipend during this practical training phase, which also includes a month’s exposure to MBSA’s specialised, product-specific maintenance training.
Successful completion of the programme will equip learners with a Certificate in Automotive Repair and Maintenance, while the workplace exposure will give them a head start in their future careers. Klaasen added that it could lead to possible permanent employment at MBSA. “However, this will depend on the student’s performance.”
SAEC director Vanessa Pillay also appealed to the students to remain focused and become the role models for their peers in the community. “Remember your goals and embrace this opportunity,” she told the students.
She also praised the fact that there were two female students in the pioneering class. “I believe that these two students should lead the way for many others in this male-dominated industry.”
Further, MBSA divisional manager for group corporate affairs Nobuzwe Mangcu said at the launch the company shares the concern and commitment of government to educate and upskill the youth. “We want to focus on a sound skills base and a pipeline of technically skilled individuals. The automotive industry is strongly driven by technological advancement, and we have a severe shortage of technical skills.”
Merseta CEO Dr Raymond Patel said: “This is an example of the private sector partnering with government [in order to meet and tackle] key challenges for South Africa. “It also contributes to job creation, the enhancement of skills, socioeconomic development and enterprise development.”
Some of the topics covered in the learnership include the fundamentals of numeracy and literacy in a motor industry context, diagnosing and repairing motor vehicle systems, tool manage- ment, stripping and assembling engines, removing and replacing brakes and clutches, servicing and repairing conventional vehicle ignition systems, repairing suspension systems, removing and installing fuel injection components, and servicing and repairing electronic automobile ignition systems.