Apprentice programme grows scarce skills

06 June 2011

Laureen Kortje, the first female technician in a workshop at UCTIn training: Laureen Kortje, the first female technician in a workshop at UCT, is an apprentice in a new programme launched by the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Glen Newins' eyes light up when he talks about his new apprenticeship programme.

Newins, chief technical officer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering workshop, is passionate about training young people and is delighted that UCT has agreed to run its first apprenticeship programme in his workshop. Newins' son recently completed his training in fitting and machining through an FET college, but found it impossible to get an apprenticeship position.

Industry is no longer offering internships to newly qualified artisans and this has left a huge vacuum in the training market, Newins explains. He was interested to see if he could start an apprentice programme right here at UCT.

This would not only assist the young apprentices, but also UCT, where the average age of the technicians in the engineering workshops is around 53 years.

Kirsty Holmes, head of UCT's Staff Learning Centre, got involved and was one of the champions in developing the programme. Also lending support were the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Human Resources Department, and the dean of the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment, Professor Francis Petersen.

"This will not only assist UCT in growing their own timber, but will also assist the government in their scarce skills programme," said Petersen.

Genevieve Langdon from mechanical engineering played a crucial role in putting all the information together, writing the letters necessary to motivate for these positions, and communicating with the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority.

Funding was secured from the government's scarce skills programme and the staff development fund. UCT received over 35 applications and selected two apprentices - including Laureen Kortje, the first female technician in a UCT workshop - to start the programme in January 2011.

The apprentices will spend three years in the workshop, where they will gain practical experience and marketable skills on a wide variety of machines.

"This is only the beginning," says Newins. "I hope that the programme will grow and that other workshops around campus will see the benefit of training apprentices."

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