Opportunity for employers to participate in a funded apprentice project

The Department Higher Education and Training (DHET) Director-General has approved the 2020 intake of 30 apprentices at the Centres of Specialization Automotive Motor Mechanic at Port Elizabeth College Iqhayiya Campus and College of Cape Town Athlone campus.  

Louis van Huyssteen, National Director of Training at the Retail Motor Industry Organisation says this is a wonderful opportunity for employers in the Automotive sector to participate in a funded apprentice project with no institutional training costs and the added bonus of a SETA grant for the employer. 

“Hands-on training and work experience are what young, up-and-coming learners need to be ready to enter the workspace in the motor industry,” says van Huyssteen, “And this is what the Centres of Specialisation (CoS) programme is all about.”  The RMI, as an industry representative body, is involved in four CoS – two for automotive mechanics and two for diesel mechanics – in Phalaborwa (Limpopo), Mankwe (North West), the Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape) and Cape Town (Western Cape). This modern apprenticeship system in South Africa originated during a visit by the then Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, to Germany and Switzerland in June 2011. The Minister saw first-hand the benefits for learners and the country’s economy of a dual system of education and training, the result of which is very low unemployment, especially among the youth.


Van Huyssteen says the project combines theoretical education with simulated practical training at a TVET college and lots of authentic work experience in a single, integrated learning programme which places employers in the driver’s seat.  The most important stakeholder in this programme is in fact the employer as the new system is employer-led or demand-led as opposed to the supply-led system that has been status quo for many years in South Africa.   

The occupational certificate programme in automotive motor mechanics at TVET colleges are gaining traction as more employers from the local industry make the most of the current  ‘free of charge’ institutional training. “These qualifications reflect occupational competence and all students enrolled get practical as well as work experience, with employers being able to manage their own apprentices.”

It’s a win-win situation and the financial benefits are clear. Employers benefit during the apprenticeship from the productive vale of the apprentice’s work. They receive their SETA grant and SARS tax break and BBBEE scorecard points and still have the opportunity to shape college curriculum so at the end of the day they receive skilled employees, trained to industry standards, and lower their risk of recruitment costs. 

merSETA and the University of Bremen completed a Cost-benefit-quality-project report in 2016 where they showed apprentice wages and productivity as a percentage of qualified artisan wages.  The numbers looked something like this. Year 1 Wage 28% Productivity 35%. Year 2 Wage 32% Productivity 65% and year 3 Wage 41% Productivity 85%. “There is no doubt the value increases incrementally year on year for the employer,” says van Huyssteen pointing out that the latest projections for the 2018 – 2020 period reflect a cost of approximately R600 000 plus to train one apprentice and a net benefit of approximately R1 million per apprentice over 48 months on the Competency Based Modular Training (CBMT) delivery method. 

Locally merSETA, in collaboration with the Institute for the Motor Industry UK and the RMI, offer employers an Automotive Apprentice ROI Calculator (http://roi.merseta.org.za./Employers just need to take three short steps to discover the potential payback from recruiting an Apprentice Motor Mechanic, Motor Body Repairer or Vehicle Spray Painter.  The results of the initial research project completed in 2018 showed that South African automotive employers can achieve up to a 200% return on their investment from contracting or employing apprentices

Van Huyssteen says it is key for employers to get on board. “Learning a trade is like learning to ride a bicycle – you learn by doing so artisans have to be trained mainly on the job. Quality automotive and diesel mechanic technicians remain scarce skills in the country. This programme will ensure sustainable supply of these skills by the TVET colleges in partnership with participating employers.”

“The aim is to produce a skilled and capable workforce to support economic growth, increase availability of technical skills, increase the delivery of qualified artisans and improve the capacity of public TVET Colleges to train in skills in demand by industry,” concludes Leon Olkers, Lecturer at Iqhayiya Campus at Port Elizabeth College. 


In the three years spent in the programme, the apprentices will spend 64% of the time at their workplaces and 36% at the college. “This means that a third of the new occupational curriculum actually deals with, and relates to, vehicle diagnostics.  This is specifically relevant and applicable to the maintenance and repair of the newer model of vehicles on SA’s roads,” concludes van Huyssteen. 

Interested employers should make contact with Van Huyssteen at louis.vanhuyssteen@rmi.org.za to obtain an Expression of Interest (EOI) form be considered as an employer on this project.