There is no doubt Covid-19 has impacted opportunities for young people trying to enter the job market and may continue to do so for years to come.
In light of this, Richard Green, National Director of SAMBRA (the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association), says it is up to the youth to take their future into their own hands by being flexible with their career plans and grabbing opportunities that could work for them in South Africa now.
He says apprenticeships are an excellent means to develop a trade-specific skill.
SAMBRA is a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) and represents almost 1 000 motor body repair businesses across South Africa, accounting for over 80% of all insured repair claims in the country.
“Many South African industries, like motor body repairers, desperately need skilled artisans. Apprentices have a good chance of entering the industry full-time,” says Green.
The minimum age to enter an apprenticeship is 16 in most industries with Grade 10 Afrikaans, English, Maths and at least one other subject. A Matric certificate with pure Maths and Science or an N2 with relevant trade subjects, is however always more advantageous on the basis of the current entry requirements for a trade test following the learnership delivery method.
Spray painting has three levels of apprenticeship and automotive body repairs require four levels on the Competency-Based Modular Training (CBMT) delivery method. At some public TVET colleges and private training centres in the country, the National Certificate: Automotive Spray Painting and Automotive Body Repair, also gets offered by way of a learnership-route to becoming a qualified artisan. It is important to note that workplace experience is essential for gaining access to a trade test.
What is an apprenticeship?
“An apprenticeship combines theory, practical work and workplace experience in a chosen trade field. In the case of a listed trade, such as motor body repair or spray-painting, it ends in a trade test and you receive an artisan certificate of competence,” explains Green.
It usually takes three to four years to achieve artisan status, after which employment is generally guaranteed should the parties agree to a continued employment relationship. “An apprenticeship is an opportunity to earn while you learn, either being contracted to an employer or receiving a stipend through a funded program, and young South Africans should explore these various opportunities,” says Green.
The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) issues the final certificate whilst a mandated authority such as the manufacturing, engineering and related services sector education training authority (merSETA) is the quality assurance partner. The National Artisan Moderation Body (NAMB) is the custodian of trade testing in South Africa.
Green reiterates that an apprenticeship is not something you can flit in and out of as it suits you. “It requires commitment to meeting the terms of a formal contractual learner agreement. When you sign up for an apprenticeship you enter into an agreement with the company and effectively become their employee for the duration of the apprenticeship.”
He says a formal contract is signed and the employer views the apprentice as an employee working for the company for an agreed period to gain the skills and experience necessary to work in that industry.
The training usually runs parallel to an education and training component, often facilitated by a TVET college or private training centre, and the apprentice’s work-based experience is mainly at the employer’s business.
But what do I get out of it?
Green says apprenticeships which are well structured and formalised are mutually beneficial.
For the apprentice, the programme hones the student’s ability in the trade through practical skills and experience and also encourages further education and training opportunities.
Don’t forget that most MBR business owners today started by acquiring a trade and doing the relevant apprenticeship! So if you wish to own your own MBR business one day, an apprenticeship is where you start.
Green advises anyone interested in an apprenticeship to speak to qualified artisans and visit their workplaces to see what the job entails. They can also contact their local TVET college advisory centre or SAMBRA for guidance (www.sambra.biz).
“There are many challenges with employment in South Africa, but the youth have their age and flexibility on their side and should leverage this,” Green concludes.