Dr. Blade Nzimande, minister of higher education and training, officially opened Imperial’s state-of-the-art technical training facility in Bellville, Cape Town, yesterday. This is an important step forward as Dr Nzimande pointed out the critical shortage of apprenticeship training and skills in South Africa. This fully accredited Merseta (manufacturing, engineering and related services sector education training authority) facility will offer apprenticeship training in the light vehicle, diesel, auto electrical and motorcycle and scooter fields. Forklift apprenticeships will be added towards the end of 2013.
Another challenge facing both government and Imperial is to break the grease-monkey stigma attached to mechanics and make it a desirable and even “cool” profession. Modern vehicles on-board diagnostics systems are very complex and the mechanic of today will rather resemble a scientist in a white coat. A lot of emphasis is placed at school level to get the youth interested and try and fill the requirement of 15 000 auto technicians per year. Once trained, a technician is almost guaranteed a job as the take-up rate is more than 95 per cent.
Imperial’s current dealer network is vast and one in every six vehicles sold in South Africa is from an Imperial forecourt. It is therefore important for Imperial to invest in its staff to deliver the quality service expected by its clients. With such a facility in place, Imperial plans to achieve just that.