EAST LONDON, Eastern Cape - Mercedes-Benz South Africa and the national Treasury, through its Jobs Fund, have formed a partnership in a job-creation initiative through the construction of a new Mercedes-Benz Learning Academy in East London.
UPGRADES UNDER WAY: The existing technical facility in East London is being upgraded. Image: Supplied.
The partnership was formalised through a grant agreement and entails an investment of R130-million, co-funded by the Jobs Fund and Mercedes-Benz SA, to transform the existing technical training centre at the Mercedes-Benz East London plant into an academy that will address the training demands of the plant and other local industries.
The CEO and executive director for manufacturing for Mercedes-Benz SA, Arno van der Merwe, explained: "Education and skills development in the automotive industry are of paramount importance to keep pace with the huge advances in technology each year.
"Mercedes-Benz SA prioritises the skills development of its workforce but with this co-operation agreement we will be able to participate in addressing the skills shortages faced in high-technology industries in the region and country."
TWO WAYS TO CLOSE THE GAP
For 30 years, Mercedes said, it had depended on its technical training centre as a feeder for artisan skills to maintain the plant. In recent years the rapid advancement of technology has placed enormous training demands on both the plant and industry in the region and nationally (including automotive suppliers), exposing a widening gap of technical training expertise.
The academy will strive to close this gap in two ways: - By ensuring that sufficient skilled artisans qualify to support the broader East London community and not only the Mercedes plant. - By offering training and development for workshop-floor factory workers - primarily aimed at unemployed school-leavers and preparing them for the job market.
The new building (see image above) is on the same site as the existing technical training centre which will also undergo renovations to accommodate more students.
The upgraded facility, which will include a robotics reference cell and all major trades - among them electrician, millwright and fitter-and-turner, should be finished by the end of 2015.