Driven by the love for cars

Nthabiseng Byrnes is the first female assembly production manager at BMW's Rosslyn plant in Pretoria. / KABELO MOKOENA
Nthabiseng Byrnes is the first female assembly production manager at BMW's Rosslyn plant in Pretoria. / KABELO MOKOENA

The motor car industry is often seen to present slim opportunities for females, but for Nthabiseng Byrnes, patience and determination are key to excelling in the motor industry.

Byrnes is the first female assembly production manager at BMW's Rosslyn plant in Pretoria where she's responsible for planning, discussing and completing reports about production and the staff.

During the company's opening of the R73-million training academy on Friday, Byrnes bore testament to the investment BMW has put into social upliftment and skills development.

The 37-year-old has been with the multinational car manufacturing company for 17 years and has occupied various positions on her way to heading the production assembly.

Growing up in GaRankuwa, Byrnes said her love for cars was inspired by her older brothers who assembled cars using wire and she would follow them around while they played.

"My upbringing taught me that I needed to be driven and to not fear challenges. I view them as opportunities to learn in this difficult industry," she told Sowetan.

Byrnes said she got into the industry when she saw an opening for a temporary assembly operator in 2001.

"It was a contract position for a normal assembly operator. I started with assembling lights before moving on to assembling doors," she said.

The mother of one would move on to
become the first black female operation coordinator before being a team leader and production engineer.

"I think I am lucky because I have experience in these fields, but studying is important because you have to reinvent yourself if you want to succeed, and you need to have people skills," she said.

Byrnes, who assumed her new position in October, said she would not limit herself to her role but will look for growth.

"I've only recently started in my position and I'm still finding my feet in the position, but BMW has so many opportunities and I intend taking advantage of them."

BMW SA opened its training centre at Rosslyn in 1978 and, since then, close to 2000 training academy graduates have secured employment at the plant. Currently, the plant hosts 300 apprentices a year.

BMW SA and Sub-Saharan Africa CEO Tim Abbott said: "Global automotive production stands on the brink of momentous change with increased focus on digitalisation and electrification."

Abbot said it was important for the future workforce to stay ahead of the trends.

"At BMW Group South Africa we are investing in the skills of the future and this is a step we have taken in ensuring that we achieve that goal," Abbott said.

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