Roy Cokayne

The first government-owned automotive training academy in the country is to be established in Rosslyn near Pretoria in a public private partnership between Nissan South Africa and the Gauteng Department of Economic Development’s Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC).

The project was prompted by and aligned to Nissan SA’s awarding of part of the global production allocation for a new one-ton pickup together with Mexico, Thailand and Spain.

Nissan announced in August it would be investing more than R1 billion in South Africa to double the production capacity at its Rosslyn assembly plant to 100 000 units a year and for the production of the new one-ton pick-up. This investment was expected to create about 800 new direct jobs within the firm and about 4 000 jobs in its supply chain.

Production was scheduled to start in late 2014.

In terms of the partnership, Nissan SA has made buildings on its land available for the facility and will pay for the cost of utilities, such as water and electricity, and the department provided a R228 million grant.

AIDC chief executive Barlow Manilal said yesterday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new training academy that the total cost of refurbishing the site for the academy was R50m with the additional funds used for equipment and to pay the service providers providing the training for three years.

Completion of the academy is scheduled for May next year with the AIDC becoming operational custodians of the institution, supported by the Automotive Supplier Park Company.

The academy, which will also house a world-class automotive manufacturing training simulator to raise the assembly process capabilities of Nissan SA employees in preparation for the production of the new pick-up, is expected to train about 1 000 people a year.

Gauteng Economic Development MEC Nkosiphendule Kolisile said the project demonstrated the provincial government’s commitment to growth in the automotive industry.

“The provincial government has maintained a focus on the automotive manufacturing sector and worked consistently to provide an environment that is conducive to growing its competitiveness,” he said.

Nissan SA managing director Mike Whitfield said the firm was proud to be part of this milestone occasion, stressing skills development was vital to the sustainability of the South African auto industry.

“Our involvement in the Automotive Training Academy demonstrates our commitment to the industry’s long-term survival. There is a lack of specialist skills in the sector and today’s (yesterday’s) ceremony sends a strong message to (the) government that Nissan wants to play a pivotal role; alongside other key institutions, in building capacity and capability within the industry,” he said.

Whitfield said the facility would enable the company to train employees by simulating production processes off the line before they started building the new vehicle.

The facility will include a body welding area to replicate Nissan’s bodyshop area and a vehicle spray painting area.

“Once the new vehicle is launched, the simulator will be used by the Gauteng Automotive Training Academy, which will benefit the greater automotive industry. The academy aims to address the dire shortage of skills among vehicle assemblers, automotive component manufacturers, dealers and the after-sales support network and informal and mechanical repairers.