Global manufacturer of diesel engines Cummins is making a significant contribution to engineering skills development, besides other corporate responsibility initiatives.
The company has a long-standing relationship with the Ithemba Institute of Technology, in Soweto. The institute has three legs – vocational education and further education and training for unemployed school leavers; nationally accre- dited technical training for grade 10 to 12 learners in mechanics, welding, fitting and turning, electrical technology and computer application techniques; and adult basic education and training aimed at enabling adults to become more employable within their communities.
Cummins’ partnership with Ithemba extends to financial support from its South Africa offices and the US-based Cummins Foundation as well as assistance with fundraising opportunities, curriculum development, equipment provision, employment opportunities and partnership engagement with other players in the automotive industry, such as the J & J Trust, truck manufacturer Scania South Africa, Murray & Roberts, rail manufacturer Bombardier and State-owned utility Eskom, says Cummins corporate respon- sibility manager for Africa Avril Campher.
Cummins runs a four-year apprenticeship-training programme with Ithemba and offers on-the-job training for learners. Four Ithemba learners have been employed at the company with another four apprentices expected to be recruited soon. The first intake includes its first female apprentices, with a further 20 students, who have been ringfenced to be engaged through the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Merseta) accelerated artisan training programme (AATP), says Campher.
The AATP has been structured over 18 months, owing to the extreme shortage of artisans in South Africa, and is targeted at students with high marks in maths and science.
Cummins has also developed the training employed in Ithemba’s mechanical workshop to be industry relevant and has equipped it with the latest tooling and technology as well as Cummins’ training models. The company has worked with government in its partnership with Ithemba and assisted it to achieve Merseta accreditation, as well as technical, information technology and Department of Labour accreditation. Several of its employees from different sectors are also actively involved and the company has a full membership on the Ithemba board.
In 2010, Ithemba achieved a 100% Grade 12 pass and, this year, it introduced Grade 8, becoming a feeder school for primary schools in the area.
Cummins strategic corporate responsibility investments lead for Africa Emily Johnson says the company is investigating similar models in the new markets the company is entering and is trying to establish how it can ensure maximum impact on technical education to augment the skills pool for the industry and collaborate with others to increase its impact.
Cummins linked with Johannesburg-based not-for-profit organisation Joy Bringers last year – an initiative that aims to break the cycle of crime. The organisation offers Gauteng male and female correctional services inmates and officials anger management and emotional wellbeing training, working with juvenile, short-term and long-term inmates.
Cummins is aiming to have some of its employees undergo the programmes and become accredited facilitators and, possibly, expand the programme. Joy Bringers would like to train long-term offenders to become accredited facilitators within the correctional centres.
The organisation is investigating opening a halfway house for parolees, where they will be linked with family members, to ease their integration back into society. Corporate-related training would be offered at the house to increase their employment opportunities. The organisation also has school programmes aimed at discouraging learners from crime.
Cummins also has a support partnership with the Alexandra Police Station, which was initiated by Business Against Crime South Africa.
Further, Cummins is investigating an environmental project in Alexandra, in Gauteng, which aims to green a local school and start a recycling programme that will extend into the surrounding community. The company will be working with an existing local recycling company to teach community members to sort recyclable materials and create self-employ- able opportunities.
Johnson says most of Cummins’ environmental projects stem from employee ideas and from the communities themselves, and its employees form community involvement teams.