MBA? No, MBLA!

Mercedes- Benz Learn­ing Academy will train more shop floor work­ers, ar­ti­sans and tech­ni­cians

The Witness - Wheels - - TRANSPORT -

MERCEDES- BENZ South Africa ( MBSA) has launched a sta­teof- the- art learn­ing academy to boost skills pro­file in the East­ern Cape on Thurs­day.

Called the MBLA — short for Mercedes- Benz Learn­ing Academy — the R130 mil­lion pub­licpri­vate in­vest­ment will also ben­e­fit ar­ti­sans from neigh­bour­ing KwaZulu- Na­tal.

The joint in­vest­ment by MBSA and the Na­tional Trea­sury’s Jobs Fund ex­pands the man­u­facurer’s train­ing cen­tre into a strate­gic ser­vice provider in MBSA’s holis­tic ap­proach to fur­ther education and train­ing with an ul­ti­mate ob­jec­tive of help­ing the re­gion in the con­tin­u­ing fight against high un­em­ploy­ment.

The cen­tre cur­rently has some 180 pupils and is ex­pand­ing its num­bers in or­der to have sur­plus ca­pac­ity to bet­ter pro­vide ar­ti­sans for the broader com­mu­nity as time pro­gresses. This is over and above the com­pany’s in­ter­nal needs.

Mercedes- Benz CEO and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing, Arno van der Merwe said the academy aims to be the most ad­vanced au­to­mo­tive train­ing fa­cil­ity in the coun­try.

“Education and skills de­vel­op­ment is of paramount im­por­tance to the busi­ness and the sus­tain­abil­ity of our com­pany and the com­mu­ni­ties in which we op­er­ate.

“To this end the com­pany has over many years showed its com­mit­ment to par­tic­i­pate in the na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort to en­sure skills trans­fer and job cre­ation for work­ers in the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor — not only for our plant but for the broader in­dus­try,” said Van der Merwe.

Na­jwah Al­lie- Edries, head of the Jobs Fund said the Jobs Fund part­nered with Mercedes- Benz South Africa be­cause the pro­ject sat­is­fied two crit­i­cal cri­te­ria.

“Firstly, the in­ter­ven­tion would re­spond to a spe­cific need in the labour mar­ket and it would im­prove the pipe­line of ap­pro­pri­ately skilled ar­ti­sanal labour that could be de­ployed not only at Mercedes- Benz South Africa, but also within the broader labour mar­ket.

“Se­condly, and more im­por­tantly, Mercedes- Benz South Africa would also guar­an­tee em­ploy­ment con­tracts for many of those com­plet­ing the train­ing pro­gramme.”

The in­struc­tors at the academy next aim to pro­vide an ex­ter­nally ac­ces­si­ble train­ing fa­cil­ity that will of­fer trade tests, train­ing and es­sen­tially place­ment of un­em­ployed per­sons in the in­dus­try, thus bridg­ing the gap be­tween job­seek­ers and in­dus­try.

The train­ing staff com­ple­ment will ac­cord­ingly be boosted from 10 to 14 tech­ni­cal in­struct- ors. Plans are also in place to in­crease the num­ber of trades that are cur­rently fa­cil­i­tated by its ac­cred­ited trade test cen­tre to in­clude all ma­jor trades in­clud­ing au­to­mo­tive elec­tri­cian, mill­wright, fit­ter and turner, mo­tor me­chanic and mecha­tron­ics.

Train­ing cat­e­gories

There are three cat­e­gories of train­ing cur­rently of­fered by the MBLA, shop floor skills, ap­pren­tice­ships and ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy train­ing.

Th­ese are the shop floor skills train­ing tar­get­ing un­em­ployed school/ col­lege leavers for in­dus­try; ap­pren­tice­ships fo­cus­ing on qual­i­fied un­em­ployed school/ col­lege leavers to ar­ti­sans; and ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy train­ing which up­skills ex­ist­ing ar­ti­sans with skills and ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies.

The state- of- the- art MBLA is equipped with cut­ting- edge ad- vanced tech­nol­ogy, rang­ing from ro­bot­ics and plant au­to­ma­tion to metal join­ing tech­nolo­gies.

There is also a va­ri­ety of ro­bot cells with some stand- alone ro­bots as well as those equipped with other tech­nolo­gies such as grip­pers, weld guns, stud welders and more.

In ad­di­tion, the MBLA’s au­to­ma­tion lab­o­ra­to­ries fea­ture pro­gram­mable logic con­trollers ( PLC’s) and sim­u­la­tors to­gether with the learn­ing units.

MBSA is also pi­lot­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, through vir­tual com­mis­sion­ing tech­nol­ogy, which is be­ing re­searched.

The MBLA will de­velop mod­ules and a vir­tual com­mis­sion­ing lab, and thus be able to of­fer fa­cil­i­ties and train­ing to em­ploy­ees in in­dus­try and lo­cal line builders. Ben­e­fits in­clude: man­age­ment of changes in pro­duc­tion, re­duced com­mis­sion­ing time and im­pact to pro­duc­tion, as well as im- proved proof of con­cept and safety.

The 22- year old Jio­vanni Bossr from King Wil­liams Town, who is one of the trainees at the academy said be­ing part of the group of pupils who re­ceive train­ing at the Mercedes- Benz Learn­ing Academy has been one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences of his life.

“I have been pre­pared for the work en­vi­ron­ment and have es­tab­lished val­ues and morals that I can carry even be­yond in­dus­try to my own life as well.

“In ad­di­tion, our in­struc­tors al­ways em­pha­sise that there are many peo­ple who have been here be­fore us that have gone on to achieve greater things in life and this is some­thing that in­spires me to give my best,”

The MBLA aims to con­tinue un­lock­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties by pro­vid­ing the best pos­si­ble peo­ple de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives in the re­gion.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

Some of the 180 pupils en­rolled at the R130 mln new Mercedes- Benz Learn­ing Academy, a joint ven­ture with the Jobs Fund.

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