Elevating youth to greater heights in material handling industry

When CFAO Equipment SA was struggling to find qualified technicians and artisans to replace those who were reaching retirement age, it took matters into its own hands and created an accredited apprenticeship programme to give learners a jump-start in the material handling industry.

This is just one of several initiatives aimed at providing young people with opportunities to learn and thrive in conducive settings, as well as to increase the talent pool for the material handling and industrial equipment sector.

The business has 56 young people in various stages of completion of its four-year apprenticeship programme. To date, five students have completed the programme and 22 are waiting to write the trade tests. The business is currently onboarding another 27 learners, which will bring the number up to 83. These are predominantly Black youth, with 34 % being female.

By the end of the programme, successful participants will have achieved their Red Seal qualification, which means they have the relevant training to work in the artisanal environment. While the majority of training takes place at CFAO Equipment SA’s technical training centre in Gauteng, the business also has apprentices in each province, with technical trainers based at each of the business’s workshops throughout the country.

Arveen Ramdhani, Head of Human Resources at CFAO Equipment SA, says to date, the business has not lost any of its apprentices. “The majority of the young people who have completed the programme have already been onboarded into the business. In the unlikely event that we are unable to employ the apprentices, they will be empowered with a recognised qualification that they can use in the technical market.”

On 15 August 2019, the business hosted a competition to identify its best technician, offering a trip to the Japan World Cup as incentive. The best technicians in the company underwent a challenging competition, with Shirley Chauke from Johannesburg branch outshining her male counterparts and walking off with the coveted prize.

In addition, the business supports the Gauteng’s Department of Basic Education multi-certification project, which is aimed at offering opportunities to young learners with an interest in technical fields to find their niche in the world of work.

In this respect, CFAO Equipment SA adopted a technical school in Tembisa in 2019/2020 that focuses on welding; fitting and turning; and mechanical and electrical engineering, refurbishing two technical classrooms in line with Toyota’s After Sales Service Evaluation & Certification (ASEC) programme standards and equipping them with the latest technical equipment.

“The learners start to gain practical exposure and MERSETA-accredited qualifications from grade 10. Specific components of the qualification are covered between grades 10 and 12 and by the time they leave school, the learners have already met 60% of CFAO Equipment SA’s apprenticeship programme requirements and gained a National Qualification Framework Level 2 qualification.”

Through these projects, the business has first stab at attracting the top students to its apprenticeship programme.

In addition, CFAO Equipment SA fitted a rural school in Limpopo with a computer science classroom, as part of a SA Medical and Education Foundation (SAME) initiative. The classroom, which is equipped with more the 20 work stations and computers, is part of similar projects throughout South Africa that are aimed at encouraging children to reach their full potential. The business also pays the school fees for 10 students at Kirkwood High School, Bedford Country School and Winterberg High School.

Another university student, Luyalo Ndubela, who was in a desperate situation while awaiting his NSFAS funding, was assisted financially by CFAO Equipment SA to secure his registration and his first-semester student fees.

He had this to say: “I am ever grateful to the CFAO Equipment SA team for placing its faith in me and assisting me in pursuing my passion for science at Rhodes University. If the company hadn’t helped me, my place would probably have gone to someone else.”

Over the past four years, CFAO Equipment SA has also helped young people with disabilities become more marketable in the workplace by putting them through a 12-month project management course. This year, the business enrolled 21 students on the programme.”

Ramdhani says no-one should have to teach or learn in an environment that does not have adequate sanitation facilities. “One of the corporate social responsibility projects that is incredibly close to our hearts is our partnership with EnviroSan, which aims to provide safe, dignified and sustainable sanitation solutions to rural schools around the country.

“Since 2018, we have provided six schools – four in the Eastern Cape and two in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) – with proper sanitation infrastructure. At the end of July, we will have completed a third project at the Mthubi primary school in KZN. Collectively, 1,500 students and teachers have been positively impacted through our contribution towards these projects.

Looking ahead, CFAO Equipment SA will continue to invest in its existing projects, as well as providing opportunities for its own employees and their children. “Young people make up almost 10% of our headcount and we’d like to provide them with opportunities to develop further. Ten employees in the business are currently bursary recipients and we’d like to expand this initiative. We see it as a win-win situation for everyone: staff morale is higher and employees have a vested interest in the business.