Tyre industry opens doors for unemployed youth
Xolani Kweyama and Angie Frederic training representative for TEPA

Upskilling changes lives.

Xolani Kweyama (26), like thousands of other South African youths, grappled with the challenge of unemployment. He worked ad hoc in construction but he dreamt of working in the tyre industry. His dreams were waning fast before he decided he had to take the bull by the horns or risk becoming another statistic.

“Apart from the mere frustration at not being able to secure work, I couldn’t provide financially for myself or my family and could, therefore, not study further,” he explains.

Xolani’s story is not unique. Youth unemployment statistics paint a bleak picture indeed. According to Stats SA, a 45,5% unemployment rate among young individuals (aged 15 to 34), in contrast to the national average of 32,9%, was recorded in the first quarter of 2024.

The National Research Foundation pins limited access to post-secondary education and training of any kind as one of the root causes, adding that those with post-secondary qualifications do far better in the labour market.

Another underlying factor is a lack of information, the Foundation says. Schools offer little career guidance, leading to youth lacking information on matching skills and interests to their chosen school subjects.

Angie Frederic, the Training Representative for the Tyre Equipment Parts Association (TEPA) says Xolani’s story  is a shining example of a young person who recognised that opportunities don’t land in your lap and took the initiative to start knocking on doors showing extreme grit and determination.

Frederic, who runs her own accredited TEPA tyre business as well as a training academy in the region for unemployed candidates looking for a career in the tyre industry, reached out to help Xolani when she heard his story.

“We receive funding from merSETA, which means we can offer these courses free of charge. It has been rewarding giving back to our community in this way and we really encourage other businesses to consider doing same.”

Within the training learnership programme, Xolani  managed to complete the Tyre Repairer and Steering Geometry (wheel alignment) courses.

“Theoretical experience is invaluable as this will give you the knowledge to complete the tasks within the job function. Practical experience teaches you the correct way to do the job hands-on and that’s the best way to learn. I ensured I attended all the training in the hope of securing permanent employment,” he says.

Xolani, has subsequently been employed by Frederic and since September 2022 has been an integral part of the team. “Some of the skills I’ve learnt are tyre repair and damage assessment and vehicle inspections,” Xolani says.

Frederic says Xolani is definitely one of their biggest success stories.

“He did, however, make it easy for me to train and employ him because of his can-do attitude. Xolani has a good work ethic, which is rare nowadays. Upskilling people changes their lives, which is why we continue with the training we offer.”

This job has changed Xolani’s life. “It’s been a great help financially and I’m able to support my family. I’m very proud of myself and grateful to the team for believing in me,” he says. 

Xolani’s advice to unemployed youth out there is to stay positive; the right opportunity is out there.

Vishal Premlall, National Director of TEPA, a proud association of the RMI (Retail Motor Industry) loves Xolani’s uplifting story. “It speaks well to the journey of a young unemployed South African who had no idea where his life was heading. We hope it will serve as an inspiration to the many other desperate youths out there.

“The automotive industry, and in this case particularly, the tyre industry, offers a multitude of opportunities, from training to hands-on experience and mentorship by experts.

“The skills shortage in South Africa remains a challenge for all industries. Businesses that can close that gap with free training courses are not only changing lives but also our economic landscape.”