Empowering the youth

Empowering the youth

It is the belief of Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) that an increased pool of qualified automotive technicians, enriched with the knowledge and skills necessary to competently and confidently fix customers’ vehicles, will enhance the service experience of its customers. Enter MBSA’s Automotive Repair and Maintenance Learnership.

In 2012, the company formed an alliance with the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MerSETA) and St Anthony’s Education Centre to provide NQF Level 4 qualifications for young school leavers – effectively creating a pipeline of appropriately skilled technicians for the automotive after-sales sector.

Last week the twelve learners from Reiger Park, in Boksburg, who were enrolled in the pilot programme, last year, marked the first milestone on their road to success when they graduated from the first year of the qualification.

The programme kicked-off with theoretical and practical instruction at the St Anthony’s Education Centre. Thereafter the students spent a month at the MBSA Head Office, in Centurion, for brand specific training before they were involved in on-the-job training at various company dealerships.

Successful completion of the three-year programme will equip learners with a Certificate in Automotive Repair and Maintenance, while the workplace exposure and mentorship provided by the dealers will give them invaluable experience and a head start in their future careers. This process is validated by MerSETA, which moderates the entire experience at the end of each milestone.

Vice president for after-sales at MBSA, Naeem Hassim, explains that the company shares the concern and commitment of government to educate and upskill the youth. “We want to create a sound skills base and a pipeline of technically-skilled individuals. We also place a specific emphasis on customer relations and enhancing the customer experience,” he adds. “The automotive industry is strongly driven by technological advancement, and there is a severe shortage of technical skills. This learnership will potentially benefit both the company and the sector.”

Vanessa Pillay, centre director of MBSA’s Dealer Training Academy, is satisfied with the progress made by the students. “The learners have a long journey ahead of them, starting with NQF Level 3 this year and concluding in 2014 with an NQF Level 4. Our emphasis is on equipping them with a combination of technical, job and life skills that will serve them during their training and also in their future careers.”

Learner, Innocent Nkosi, expressed his delight with the outcomes of the programme thus far, and while he admits some anxiety about the challenges he will face in the second half of the year, he is also very excited: “I am grateful for the opportunity to kick-start a career in the motor industry, and have already learned more than I expected.”

Hassim adds: “We watch the progress of our learners with keen interest. The success of this pilot phase will determine the future trajectory of the programme, but we are confident that we will make a positive contribution to the skills development arena.”

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