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Hearing-impaired vocational programme delivers on the workshop floor

Hearing-impaired vocational programme delivers on the workshop floor

Dozens of hearing-impaired individuals are enjoying fulfilling careers thanks to a skills development public private partnership established within the retail motor industry. Motor repair workshops are reporting considerable success with graduates from the programme, which offers a SAQA-registered qualification.

Much of the success of the learnership programme stems from the work experience they gain, which has been facilitated by the warm acceptance the graduates have received at various motor repair workshops around the country, says Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). The workshops involved are accredited to RMI-association, SAMBRA (South African Motor Body Repair Association), and two – Brooklyn Motor Lab and Jock’s Autobody – have reported continuing interest in the programme.

The project involves close collaboration between merSETA, the National Institute for the Deaf (NID), the insurance sector, motor body repair workplaces, and an accredited skills development provider with the outcome of delivering work-ready, hearing-impaired graduates.

On 13 December 2018 the latest class of 12 hearing-impaired motor body repair learners graduated following completion of various custom skills programmes, such as vehicle spray painting and motor body repair. Three graduates from the previous year have been employed at Brooklyn Motor Lab and Jock’s Autobody.

Workshop owners and managers claim their easy acceptance is due to the graduates’ superior work ethic and on-the-job performance.

Wayne Coutts, owner of Brooklyn Motor Lab, for instance, describes his two full-time hearing-impaired employees as a revelation. The two – Dirk Jacobus (DJ) Barkhuizen and Rinier Planck - worked in the workshop on a work-study module of their programme and were offered full-time employment at its conclusion two years’ ago. They have since passed their trade test. So pleased is he with their work performance that he has taken on three more learners as part of the training programme.

“They are go-getting, awesome workers. I can give them almost anything to do,” he enthuses. In a highly-enabling move, the workshop employees and owners supported and assisted Barkhuizen to raise funds for a hearing operation, which has improved his hearing, though he still cannot speak. Planck has better hearing and can speak – though communication was clearly the major challenge in the programme.

Both Coutts and Jock’s Autobody liaison officer, Sylvester Scholes, say the success of the programme stems from existing staff making the effort from the beginning to find a common platform of communication, with some even learning some sign language, and with eye contact being the key connection.

Jock’s Autobody has one graduate full-time on staff and has a steady turnover of learners attending for work-study modules. “He (the graduate) is one of our best workers, and is very diligent. Because he had worked here from time to time, there were no communication problems when he finally joined us fulltime.”

Learners on the programme are rotated through a range of workshops to gain diverse experience.

Olivier explains that delivery of the practical training programme by the skills development provider to hearing-impaired learners demands an understanding of both the Automotive Body Repair Industry and a sound delivery methodology to these learners.

“This demonstrates how motor repair workshops and the retail motor industry can be effective catalysts for both skilling and up-skilling. Our willing employers assist the skills development provider with the practical experience learners with disabilities need to acquire in their journey to become work-ready.”

RMI, an employer organisation, and the Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA), a labour organisation, joined forces in 2017 to encourage employers and staff in the retail motor industry to embark on similar gender mainstreaming and disability programmes.

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