Elevator and escalator manufacturer Otis South Africa has relaunched its training academy in line with its skills development programme, which is designed to create technical and functional expertise in African markets.
“Building skills and expertise through the Otis training academy is a key element in positioning South Africa as a hub for Otis products on the African continent,” Otis Africa human resources director Loueen Jones-Paulsen noted at the launch last month.
The skills shortage in the elevator and escalator technical field has left the company struggling to find qualified mechanics who can service and maintain Otis equipment, while meeting its stringent safety standards.
While Jones-Paulsen underscored the significant skills shortage and a lack of, or deterioration in, training of lift mechanics over the years, she emphasised the importance of their skills and expertise. “A lift mechanic, if qualified, can work anywhere in the world,” she enthused, adding that Otis intends to “flood” the industry with qualified mechanics.
Otis, in partnership with the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Merseta), is, therefore, running a robust learnership/ apprenticeship programme, which currently hosts 68 learners and graduates. On average, 15 mechanics qualify each year but 21 learners qualified in 2016, all of whom were subsequently employed by Otis.
The relaunched training academy has further been designed to have lecture rooms, a library and a technical training centre.
In addition to graduating learners with an NQF Level 4 mechanic qualification, the academy will now offer programmes that range from service and maintenance, installation, quality, environment, health and safety, sales, field engineering and operations, supervision, project management and general management to leadership, as well as a module on doing business in Africa.
The training and development framework will ensure the development of clear career paths. It will also enable employees to progress through Otis, encouraging talent development and greater employee retention. In addition, the academy will provide training for subcontractors and black entrepreneurs participating in the Otis broad-based black economic-empowerment programme.
Jones-Paulsen noted that Otis aimed to expand the technical training included in the learnership programme from hosting 68 learners this year to between 100 to 120 learners in 2018.
“We hope that we can develop this institution from being a training academy to an Otis campus in, hopefully, five years’ time,” she said.
Otis North, Central Europe and Africa (NCEA) president Bora Gulan further highlighted at the launch that the academy “has the potential to be the ‘best-in-class’ training centre in the world”.
While Merseta CEO Dr Raymond Patel highlighted at the launch that increased education and training would transform lives and help reduce poverty, inequality and unemployment, Jones-Paulsen said Otis acknowledged that it could contribute to the reduction of unemployment by doubling the intake of learners.
The key aim of the academy was to create a space where all Otis stakeholders increased the levels of skill, competence and expertise, while fostering a culture of learning and encouraging operational and service excellence, she said.
“For Otis to remain committed to and deliver on its promise of uncompromising quality and safety, it is imperative that it has a strong leadership and a highly skilled, customer-centric and competent workforce to ensure it retains its global leadership position,” Jones-Paulsen concluded.