August is National TVET Month : Earn While you learn
Eastcape Midlands College apprentices

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.   We need young people with skills and jobs. 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.

“University is not for everyone,” says Retail Motor Industry’s Training Director, Louis van Huyssteen. “Young people need to realise that there is a whole world out there desperate for practical skills in a variety of fields. The automotive sector is a great place to start. Best of all, young South Africans who embrace apprenticeships 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 says.

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,” says Sabelo Buthelezi, Chief Director Special Projects Unit for Department of Higher Education (DHET)

“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,” explains van Huyssteen.

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. 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.         

“With increasing pressure to close the skills gap and provide much-needed jobs, artisans are 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,” says Buthelezi.

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. “This is an exciting industry for young people,” says HWK Erfurt’s Resident Project Manager TVET Partnership Project Birgit Mac Mahon “There are so many career opportunities for young women, men and those with disabilities not only in South Africa but around the world. The reality is that qualified tradespeople are well respected all over the world and in many European countries even earn more than doctors or lawyers.”

She adds that access to international trends, through the German Craft Chamber, is 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!” she concludes.