MBA? No, MBLA!
Mercedes- Benz Learning Academy will train more shop floor workers, artisans and technicians
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.
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.
Some of the 180 pupils enrolled at the R130 mln new Mercedes- Benz Learning Academy, a joint venture with the Jobs Fund.