WITH over 50% of the youth in South Africa currently facing unemployment, Isuzu is turning the tide by setting an industry benchmark in the automotive industry.
Isuzu Motors South Africa is the first OEM to invest in the development of professional commercial drivers - with a particular focus on unlocking this career path for South African youth and women.
The stereotypical image of a truckdriver being a burly man is changing with women, mothers and young men moving in behind the steering wheel of commercial vehicles across the highways and byways of South Africa.
Nicci Scott, founder of Commercial Transport Academy CTA, said the physique of the typical truck driver is indeed changing - with more and more opportunities becoming available for a diverse group of commercial drivers through investments by OEMs such as Isuzu.
In fact, Isuzu was the first OEM to embrace female truck drivers, with its 2016 learnership programme.
"The Isuzu truck range is perfect for women drivers. Of the 2016 intake of five women who graduated, two stayed in the industry. Safety is still a concern for women drivers - particularly long-haul driving but we are slowly preparing the industry for skilled women truck drivers," said Scott.
In 2017 only men participated in the Isuzu learnership, and in 2018 a mixed group of men and women were included in the programme. All ten learners of the 2018 intake completed both a theoretical and practical component of their learnership.
The youngest learner from the 2018 intake to graduate is only 22 years old - and the oldest is 35 years old. The mixed group of learners consist of four women and six men.
"The learners come from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and have been vetted thoroughly to ensure that they have an interest in the industry. Apart from the 3-month theoretical component, they also completed an 8-month workplace practical component. They understand the product and have dealt with the very latest technology in South Africa - making them highly employable. The fact that the learnership is backed by the OEM, is key," said Scott.
While CTA provided the vetting, implementation, mentoring and monitoring of the learnership on behalf of Isuzu, the learners gained their practical experience at OneLogix Trucklogix - an auto logistics company for commercial vehicles in South Africa - including Isuzu trucks. The learners would collect Isuzu trucks in Port Elizabeth, and drive and deliver these trucks within the dealer network across the country.
The youngest graduate, Samkelo Hadebe (22), described the learnership as a life-changing experience: "Unemployed and searching for an opportunity, I became aware of the learnership from a friend. Before the learnership began, I had no idea how demanding it was to drive commercial vehicles. I have travelled throughout our beautiful country delivering your new trucks, which has been a dream come true. When we started the learnership, four women entered the programme, I was sure they would not succeed, but they did, and I am proud to work alongside them," said Hadebe.
The learnership is NQF Level 3 accredited, and the curriculum cover such diverse content such as driving and operating a vehicle, health and safety training. The curriculum is moderated internally and externally; and benchmarked internationally.
"After studying cosmetology, I embarked on the learnership that was anything but feminine. I never saw myself as being a truck driver, but here I am representing all the female commercial drivers out there, and I love it. I have a new respect for truck drivers and exposure to this industry has opened my eyes to the opportunities available to me. Through persistence, commitment and new learnings, I hope to start my own business in the transport and logistics sector," said another youth graduate, Mbalenhle Moloena (24).