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SA's automotive sector has a chronic skills shortage

Motor apprentices earn while they learn, and qualify to artisan status after successful completion of a trade test. Picture: SUPPLIED
Motor apprentices earn while they learn, and qualify to artisan status after successful completion of a trade test. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Retail Motor Industry (RMI) is trying to attract more school leavers into the automotive sector, which has a chronic skills shortage.

Apprenticeships for young people are an excellent way of getting a foot into a shrinking employment pool and help alleviate SA’s high unemployment rate, says Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the RMI, an umbrella body for SA’s automotive sector.  

School leavers who achieve a diploma pass are eligible for study at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. The apprenticeship consists of theoretical training at a TVET college, as well as workplace training under the supervision of a qualified artisan. Apprentices earn while they learn, and qualify to artisan status after successful completion of a trade test.

Olivier was commenting on SA’s unemployment rate reaching a record 34.9% high, with predictions that seven out of 10 matrics looking for a job this year will not find one.

The economy shed 660,000 jobs in the third quarter of 2021 and more than 10-million people are formally employed out of a total labour force of about 22-million, according to Stanlib.

There is a major skills shortage ranging from motor body repair and spray painting, mechanics, automotive engineering and machining, engine fitting, welding, vehicle bodybuilding and  auto electrical, says Louis van Huyssteen, RMI’s national training director.

“Learners with a positive attitude, an eagerness to use their opportunity and discipline are welcomed in the sector, and young ideals of a long and prosperous career can indeed become a reality,” he says.

There are opportunities to specialise into sought-after expert areas including colour mixer and matcher, application of waterborne and 2 and 3 stage pearlescent paint, passenger and commercial vehicle technicians, vehicle engine remanufacturing, diagnostic and fault-finding technicians, coded welding, steering geometry and advanced driver-assistance systems.

Olivier said it made financial sense for automotive employers to take on apprentices. A 2018 research project by the RMI, merSETA and the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) UK found that SA employers can achieve an up to 200% return on their investment from contracting or employing apprentices.

Sources for motor industry careers and training institutions:

• Department of higher education& trainings national career advice portal Khetha.

•  MerSETA’s career portal

•  TVET colleges with engineering campuses and those offering motor-related apprenticeships

•  Corporate motor vehicle dealer groups with private training centres such as the Motus Training Academy

•   Barloworld Motor Retail SA

•  Artisan Training Institute

SA Institute of Welding

Afrit

SA Truck Bodies Training Centre

•  Kigima autoelectrical training centre.

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