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The STi Training Center, a skills transfer project that provides auto-repair training for underprivileged learners in Cape Town, has marked four years of success by moving to larger, high-tech premises and launching an additional programme.
The STi Training Centre will now be a fully-functional repair facility where trainees can be taught the full spectrum of skills, techniques and procedures required to operate a successful autobody business.
The initiative, known as ITHUBA, was launched in 2005 by the STi (Service Through Integrity) Group, a franchise group of auto-body repairers. Mutual & Federal, one of South Africa’s leading short-term insurers, is a major sponsor of this initiative.
The scheme traditionally provided accredited auto spray-painting courses to learners from previously disadvantaged communities, and recently launched the first of its new panel-beating courses as well.
The expansion of the various training initiatives prompted the relocation of the STi Training Centre to convenient new premises.
“The new venue, in Goodwood, is far more centrally situated and learners can use public transport to travel to it,” says Ray Sanger, the Mutual & Federal facilitator for the ITHUBA Project. “It is also much larger, enabling more courses to be run concurrently, and boasts high-tech facilities including a state-of-the-art spray booth.
“The premises are in a secure, commercial area. This is an important factor as the majority of learners to have gained accreditation in spray-painting so far are young women. Interestingly, 13 of the 22 learners enrolled on the first panel-beating course are also female.”
The new premises were officially opened on 29 July 2010 by STi chairperson, Theo von Solms. The STi Group is an association of independently owned motor repair workshops that supports the project both financially by providing facilities for practical training as well as employment opportunities.
“The move to the new centre enables us to create a fully-functional autobody repair facility,” says von Solms. “We see this centre as an incubator, not only of skilled artisans, but also, as part of our next project, of the growth of new ventures owned and staffed by our graduates.”
Von Solms says there has been a steady decline of skilled artisans in the autobody repair industry.
“We are faced with a growing shortage of skills in a country where unemployment is rampant,” he says. “STi has therefore embraced the opportunities made available by government, in terms of funding grants, and has invested in the future of our industry by creating this technical training facility which aims to redress this situation.”
All courses are accredited by MERSETA, the SETA for the Motor and Engineering disciplines, and by the Department of Education and Training. So far, ITHUBA has provided NQF 2 and NQF 3 certification for 115 learners, drawn from low-income communities like Joe Slovo and Du Noon. 22 learners, both young men and women, recently started on the new nine-month panel-beating course.
Each course comprises theoretical and practical training modules.
Mutual & Federal, which places great emphasis on supporting initiates geared towards uplifting and empowering individuals and communities, has donated more than R1 million to date in support of the ITHUBA Project, through the Mutual & Federal Community Trust. Apart from financing courses until such time that they are fully accredited by the SETA, Mutual & Federal also sponsors uniforms, some safety equipment, and provides each learner with a weekly travel allowance.
“The success rate of the ITHUBA Project has been very high, and way above expectations,” says Sanger. “We are delighted at the number of learners who have gained certification and gone on to achieve NQF level 3, enabling them to study further for their apprenticeship trade tests. Most have found gainful employment, many of them within the STi Group.”
“Our sponsors, Mutual & Federal and BASF, have made significant contributions, both financial and by providing ongoing support,” says von Solms.