Motor Mech East London showcases the future of work in automotive sector
Winners of the 2023 Motor Mech competition. From left Amila Ngalo in 2nd place (Port Rex), Cliffie Jacobs (MIWA), Pieter Niemand, MIWA National Director, winner Okuhle Matota (Port Rex), Alfred Kabeya in 3rd place (Port Rex), Peter Van Mosseveld and Teresa Spenser Higgs (MIWA).

This year’s Motor Mech show, hosted by the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), in East London was a resounding success. Significantly it was held on Youth Day on 16 June - a day specifically selected as a symbol of youth empowerment, at Port Rex Technical High School.

Over the years Moto Mech has grown in popularity in the Eastern Cape serving to highlight the industry’s potential to future young employees.  Teresa Spenser Higgs, MIWA Eastern Cape Vice Regional Chairperson and Chairperson of RMI Eastern Cape says, “Our East London economy is largely based in the motor industry with the Mercedes Benz South Africa production plant based in East London. We are also fortunate to have The Automotive Learning Academy where students in the motor Industry can now do their trade qualifications locally.”

This year was no exception with the show attracting a regular stream of spectators to watch participants from Richard Varha High School from Dimbaza and hosts, Port Rex Technical High School, battle it out. “Kusile Comprehensive School from  Duncan Village also sent a team to observe the competition and we hope they will participate next year,” she says.  

Spenser Higgs, who arranged the show with fellow MIWA Training Representative Cliffie Jacobs and Peter Van Mosseveld, RMI Regional Manager and MIWA Associational Representative in the Eastern Cape, were all thrilled with the excellent attendance and the support from other RMI sister associations, Tyre, Equipment, Parts Association (TEPA) and the National Automobil Dealers’ Association (NADA), as well as a host of other industry exhibitors, who also took part in the event, displaying their parts and accessories and new vehicles respectively.

The junior Motor Mech competition is always a highlight of the event, and this year was no different. This year’s competition was shortened and took place over 3 rounds with six question sections. Spenser Higgs says 12 children participated in the preliminary round. Six competitors were then eliminated leaving the remaining six to battle it out in the semifinals.  NGK once again participated in the competition and the 1st round included a spark plug question section sponsored by NGK.  The contestant with the highest score took home a hamper sponsored by NGK.

The six students in the semifinal were asked to identify light issues on a replica model car and fit a timing belt and setting timing. For the final the students were then whittled down to three who participated in a nail biting duel off. The three were each given a vehicle that didn’t start and they had to identify and solve the problem. The contestant that solved the problem in the fastest time won. 

Competition was extremely fierce this year. Grade 11 Okuhle Matota  walked off with 1st prize followed by  Amila Ngalo in 2nd place  and Alfred Kabeya in 3rd place, all three from Port Rex Technical High. Spenser Higgs says all three expressed a keen interest in entering the trade as soon as they finished school which is really encouraging. It is also encouraging that the competition has been won by a grade 11 for two consecutive years now.

Each of the 12 contestants who participated were given three goody bags filled with gifts from suppliers and sponsors like Merseta, Moto Health and Misa. Misa also sponsored our first prize comprising a toolbox; Cliffie’s Auto the second prize toolbox and BMG sponsored the 3rd prize toolbox. During the day 150 lucky draws with an estimated value of over R50 000.00 were also given away.

QSV raffled a toolbox for one of the schools. Over R3 000 was raised and Justin De Coning from QSV handed over the prize to Port Rex school principal Mr Ettienne Theron on the day.

To add excitement to the day, spectators could also participate in a virtual car game from Nascom and the fastest top three lap times took home prizes. Spenser Higgs says the funds raised by this on the day will go to a Pet Pals Charity “Thanks also to the local Round table no1 East London, who ran the kiddies arena and the  Songololo train. Funds from these will also to to a charity of their choice.” Another area which attracted attention was a virtual truck driving simulator and a Motorbike driving training simulator.

“Industry role players like Moto Health, THE Motor Industry Staff Association (Misa), the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Association (Merseta) and  even the Motor Industry Bargaining Council (Mibco)  joined us and have all said they found the show so valuable that will definitely be back next year.”

MIWA’s special project partners, HaynesPro also provided a demonstration and a shortened version of the Women’ s basic maintenance workshop the areas have been running.

The team from Bell Equipment who attended the show manned a stand and were also scouting for potential talent. Riaan De Klerk, 1-BELL Technical Training Manager – Apprenticeships and Factory Skiils, says the Bell Trainer, Romeo Magengele, who attended the show as well as Anati, a 2nd year Bell EM apprentice, were very impressed with the calibre of participants and the interest shown by the scholars and parents in their stand and the opportunities available.  “In fact,” says Magengele, “many of the young people even requested they could visit the East London facility to see the typical daily activities of an Artisan and Apprentice in the Earthmoving (EM) Heavy Equipment Mechanic (HEM) industry.

Higgs says we hope visiting school children got excited about the opportunities that exist in the sector and will seriously consider this as a career with great potential.

“A very big thank you once again to Port Rex Technical High School, whose dedication, partnership and hard work made the day possible. “We are proud to say that all proceeds from the event have been donated to the school,” she says.

“Feedback from both visitors and vendors has been overwhelmingly positive. Several vendors have already booked stands for next year, and our sponsors have promised an even greater commitment on the day,” she concludes.