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Skills shortage in automotive sector opens opportunities to earn while you learn

Eastcape Midlands College apprentices. Photo: Supplied

Eastcape Midlands College apprentices. Photo: Supplied

Published Aug 3, 2022


August is National Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) month, and the spotlight is on the multitude of opportunities that exist for young people wanting to follow a trade route.

Young people with skills and jobs are needed, and they need to be able to earn while training so they can support their families.

These are the thoughts driving innovative apprenticeship programmes in the Eastern Cape.

Retail Motor Industry’s Training Director Louis van Huyssteen said the automotive sector is a great place to start as young people can enjoy earning while they learn.

“This means they can use the money to support family members and pay for transport to and from college or work,” he said.

“University is not for everyone. Young people need to realise that there is a whole world out there desperate for practical skills in a variety of fields,” Huyssteen said.

Considering the Eastern Cape has the country's worst unemployment rate at over 50%, with more than two thirds of that comprising youth (41.4%), apprenticeships are a brilliant way to get into the job market.

The youth unemployment rate in this region is more than twice the adult unemployment rate, with over 420 000 youth unemployed.

This has to be addressed through education and skills training.

If you are a student looking at what your options are, for the coming years, now is the perfect time to consider a TVET qualification.

Applications are now open at the eight TVET colleagues and, for younger learners, at the Port Rex School in the Eastern Cape.

If you have passed Grade 9 or if you have completed your Senior Certificate but are still not in employment, education or training, then you can apply.

The automotive sector is experiencing a chronic skills shortage ranging from motor body repair and spray painting to petrol mechanics, diesel mechanics, welding;,vehicle bodybuilding, and auto electrical.

According to Huyssteen, there are many opportunities for young people with a positive attitude, an eagerness to use the opportunity, and the discipline to work hard. The most popular trades are motor and diesel mechanic, followed by auto body repairer and vehicle spray painter.

Sabelo Buthelezi, Chief Director Special Projects Unit for Department of Higher Education (DHET), said that with the increasing pressure to close the skills gap and provide much-needed jobs, artisans were essential in developing and closing the unemployment gap and curbing the lack of technical skills in the country.

“And there’s no doubt that small business will be the ones to drive the economy in the future. These small businesses will need skilled young people,” Buthelezi said.

In 2020, a partnership was established between the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), the German Chamber of Crafts Erfurt, also known as Handwerkskamer Erfurt (HWK Erfurt), and the TVET colleges in the Eastern Cape.

The venture has seen many successful apprentices enter the automotive industry.

HWK Erfurt’s Resident Project Manager for the TVET Partnership Project, Birgit Mac Mahon, explained that there were so many career opportunities for young women, men and those with disabilities not only in South Africa but around the world.

Mac Mahon said that the reality was that qualified tradespeople were well respected all over the world and, in many European countries, even earn more than doctors or lawyers.

She added that access to international trends through the German Craft Chamber was invaluable for apprentices, particularly in an environment where skills are valued and provide businesses with a competitive advantage.

“We want to encourage young people to look into the opportunities for skills training in the automotive industry. There are so many different options and jobs for those with the right training and skills. Don’t wait. You have the chance to earn while you learn. Take it!” Mac Mahon encouraged.