We are rapidly approaching the third month of the year and, without doubt, there are 2018 matriculants still wondering what they should be doing this year. “The good news is that the motor industry has much to offer enthusiastic young people eager to learn and wanting to make money,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).
“Typically, automotive service technicians and mechanics maintain and fix cars and light trucks. However, the type of work we do has changed over the years. It used to be simple mechanical repairs. Today it is a highly technical job since vehicles today are run by electronic systems and computers,” he says.
He explains that to do the job, technicians must know a lot about how complex parts of the vehicle work together. “Mechanics must be able to work with electronic equipment and be able to read and understand manuals and machines that are computer-based. At the same time, they must be able to use the power- and hand-tools we’ve used in the past. Because there are so many parts to a vehicle some mechanics specialise in fixing only one certain part of it. For example, some technicians will only fix brakes while others will solely work on problems with the air-conditioning system. It’s a hands-on job that is very rewarding,” he says.
Ranft says problem solving is a vital skill if you are considering a career as a mechanic. “Maths and computer science are good subjects to do if you have an interest in this field,” he says.
Formal and on-the-job training is essential. “There are some good courses you can take to become certified. Practical training is obviously also vital. While studying, it is highly recommended that you do an apprenticeship at a workshop.”
Most mechanics will start out working for a workshop and get several years of practical experience under their belt before considering venturing off to open their own business. A large number of qualified technicians in South Africa go on to own their own independent workshop while the others work for dealerships, workshops, parts and supplies retailers, and so on.
“We acknowledge our responsibility as MIWA to assist with development of skills in South Africa,” says Ranft, and for this reason MIWA has identified training as one of its priorities. The association has ventured into establishing excellent relationships with top accredited training service providers in South Africa like Bidvest McCarthy Training Academy and Imperial Technical Training Academy, to name a few. “These platforms provide opportunities for MIWA members to accommodate young learners with their workplace experience who would like to pursue a career within the motor industry.”
The current dispensation in South Africa is very favourable for businesses to invest in skills development and training. Short skills programs or full apprentice programs with the assistance of grants, rebates and incentives are available through SETAs and SARS.
“There are many job opportunities in this industry, especially for those with some formal training. There is also much room for growth and position advancement with on-the-job courses available.”
“And it can be a lucrative profession. We offer a much-needed service and as long as people drive cars there will be a need for skilled mechanics. It’s also an industry that encourages small business development which is a must for job creation in this country. If you are considering getting into the industry and need some advice, contact MIWA for assistance,” he concludes.