The Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), representing over 8 500 employer businesses in the retail automotive aftermarket sector, has expressed concern over the transition to occupational qualifications for apprentice training in the retail motor industry sector in South Africa.
The RMI has been involved in the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Centres of Specialisation (CoS) project since 2017 and has played an integral role in successfully implementing occupational certificates for the automotive motor and diesel mechanics, as part of the 13 priority trades. “The automotive value chain represents a substantial contribution to economic activity, with a 6.4% contribution to GDP, of which the retail sub-sector represents 2.4%,” says Jakkie Olivier, RMI Chief Executive Officer.
Olivier says that while the RMI believes that occupational qualifications can contribute to skills development in the motor industry, it is concerned about the potential negative impact on the country’s national artisan development target of 30 000 artisans a year. “Previous training transitions were not without their challenges, and we anticipate similar issues for all stakeholders and delivery partners not part of the ground-breaking DHET initiative in 2017,” he says.
Louis van Huyssteen, RMI National Director Training, agrees saying the organisation is equally concerned about the level of support for employers who have apprentices enrolled across the 13 trades, of which only three were part of the DHET project. He says that while a smooth transition to occupational qualifications on 1 July 2023 is the ideal scenario, the RMI suggests that the current time-based learnerships and competency-based delivery methods should remain in place during the phased implementation of the occupational qualifications over a period of at least 36 months.
“We recommend a pilot programme should rather be conducted for the remaining 10 trades before implementing the new occupational qualifications to ensure that apprentice training in the sector does not come to an abrupt stop. This approach would allow for flexibility and transparency in the implementation of the new qualifications,” says Van Huyssteen.
“We urge all stakeholders and delivery partners to work together to address these concerns so that there can be a smooth transition to occupational qualifications. A blended approach with occupational certificates for apprentice training, with all social and delivery partners on board, will bode well for the continued supply of skilled artisans to meet employers’ needs. As a sector, skills shortages in the industry remain a challenge, particularly in the technical fields, and we need to agree on initiatives that will help attract and draw more talent to the sector,” concludes Olivier.