The motor body repair industry is opening doors for young men and women with a range of qualifications they can use to secure exciting career prospects locally and internationally.
Gone are the days when the sector was regarded as dull and dreary and for men only, says manager at the Motus Technical Academy in Wadeville Lee de Sousa.
“The qualifications are highly sought after, here and abroad. Women are also making waves in the industry, with their innate attention to detail amongst the skills opening many doors for them.
“Anyone can succeed in the learnerships we offer, regardless of the challenges they may face in their personal circumstances. All you need is passion for the trade, commitment and discipline,” de Sousa says.
His own career is a testament to this, having started as an apprentice motor mechanic at Lindsay Saker.
“I then moved over to Audi, when Audi and VW were one entity. After the two brands were separated, I was given the opportunity to open an Audi workshop in Braamfontein and moved to various other branches in the group to gain experience.
“This journey took me from motor mechanic to foreman, service advisor and service manager to, eventually, the training division, where I really found my passion. I have never looked back.”
Richard Green, National Director of SAMBRA (the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association), says apprenticeships are an excellent means to develop a trade-specific skill.
SAMBRA is a proud affiliate of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) and represents almost 1 000 motor body repair businesses across South Africa, accounting for over 80% of all insured repair claims in the country.
“Many South African industries, like motor body repairers, desperately need skilled artisans. Apprentices have a good chance of entering the industry full-time.
“An apprenticeship combines theory, practical work and workplace experience in a chosen trade field. In the case of a listed trade, such as panel beating or spray-painting, it ends in a trade test and you receive an artisan certificate of competence,” explains Green.
It usually takes three to four years to achieve artisan status, after which employment is generally guaranteed should the parties agree to a continued employment relationship.
Apprenticeships in South Africa are monitored by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and the National Artisan Moderation Body (NAMB) oversees the quality assurance of apprenticeships on behalf of the QCTO.
Green reiterates that an apprenticeship is not something you can flit in and out of as it suits you. It requires commitment and meeting the terms of a formal contractual agreement.
Paying his passion forward, de Sousa invites matriculants and other youth into the academy during school holidays to see what it is all about. “They get to experience all the aspects of a motor body repair business, from admin to support, etc. and take part in training sessions, including hands-on supervised training,” he says.
Motus currently has four academies – Germiston (motor mechanic), Wadeville (diesel mechanic, auto electrical, spray painting and automotive body repair), Bloemfontein (auto electrical, diesel and motor mechanic) and Cape Town (diesel mechanic, auto electrical and motor mechanic).
They have accredited trade tests for diesel mechanic, motor mechanic, motorcycle and scooter mechanic, auto electrical, automotive body repair and spray painting.
To enter any of the learnerships the candidate must have a Grade Nine certificate.
There are no compulsory school subjects required, but maths, physical science, technical drawing and theory (N1 or N2) are recommended, as these are extremely helpful in understanding course material in the curriculum, de Sousa explains.
On the subject of women entering the sector, de Sousa says they are seeing many women pursuing a trade in spray painting, a fact endorsed by Green who has a large number of very successful women as SAMBRA members and owners of their own body repair shops.
“This is not as physical as panel beating, but women also have an eye for detail, which is critical when it comes to colour mixing.
“Many workshops have qualified female artisans managing the mixing room because it requires accuracy to blend colours, and women are good at it. This is an additional responsibility as a spray painter.
“Our technical trainer is a woman named Motswaki Choppo, who is a qualified spray painter, facilitator, assessor and moderator, and is currently preparing for a second trade in panel beating.
“In a panel beating workshop you have panel beaters and spray painters under one roof, so if you have both these trades it is a massive advantage.”
De Sousa goes on to explain that both are hands-on trades. Skills are applied in the workshop to ensure the learner achieves maximum workshop exposure on the different tasks of each trade.
The two trades are in demand locally because of the standard of workmanship required to meet the manufacture’s standard.
“If a vehicle is involved in an accident and goes for repairs, the artisan has to maintain the high standard in order for the manufacturer to continue honouring the warranty on that vehicle.
“Internationally, there is demand for artisans in spray painting and automotive body repair trades because it so specialised. These trades also offer a base for career development in the motor industry because they provide a lot of opportunities.”
The qualification, called the Red Seal qualification, is recognised internationally. This certificate is also awarded to the candidates that go through the ARLP (Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning) programme.
De Sousa concludes that the Wadeville and Cape Town academies have their own trade test centre with accreditation to test all the trades offered.
Exciting news for those interested in entering the MBR industry is that Lee has been instrumental introducing a new qualification – Vehicle Damage Quantifier.
He explains that the Motus Technical Academy in Wadeville has been accredited for training and testing on this qualification.
“With this new qualification, many people in the industry, like panel beaters and spray painters, will be able to inspect vehicles for assessing damage and quoting. It is also a valuable added qualification for insurance assessors,” de Sousa concludes.
Green advises anyone interested in an apprenticeship to speak to qualified artisans and visit their workplaces to see what the job entails. They can also contact their local TVET college advisory centre or SAMBRA for guidance (www.sambra.biz).