Skills training and job creation for new Mercedes-Benz C-Class boosts automotive industry
- Almost 900 trainees equipped with motor manufacturing skills at Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) shopfloor skills training cell
- MBSA contribution to the economy intensifies as preparation for the next generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class gains momentum
East London/ Respected the world over as a producer of top quality luxury vehicles, the MBSA manufacturing plant in East London has prepared nearly 900 new recruits for its own expansion agenda, and for the growth of the broader industry.
In a sector that thrives on high levels of technology and constant innovation, keeping the skill levels of employees on par with current developments is the deciding factor for success. The skills induction Training Centre at the MBSA plant was launched in 2012 to create a talent pipeline of highly skilled employees at the entry level of the motor manufacturing business.
Says vice president for Human Resources, Johann Evertse: “Education and skills development is of paramount importance, but equally important is the right mindset of life-long learning and being a productive team member. It is this mindset that stimulates the drive for increased efficiency and productivity which is needed for global competitiveness.”
The best automotive training ground in the country
The South African automotive landscape can offer no better training ground than the MBSA plant, which in 2013 won its fifth consecutive quality accolade from one of the most fastidious consumer nations in the world – the United States of America. The demanding standards used in the manufacturing of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class model has resulted in one platinum, two gold and two silver JD Power and Associates Initial Quality Study (IQS) awards. Locally, MBSA has also featured prominently in the IPSOS quality survey, rated best manufacturing plant in South Africa in 2013.
On the back of this exceptional track record, parent company Daimler AG announced in 2010 that the East London plant had been selected as one of four sites worldwide to build the next generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This kicked-off a plant expansion plan with positive implications for job creation in the region.
Up-skilling the automotive industry for enhanced sustainability
A strategic decision was made to align job creation with the talent pipeline approach used by MBSA as part of its business sustainability model. This resulted in the expansion of the human resource development aspect of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class project to include the training of more resources than the company would need to fill the new jobs created.
“We received very positive feedback from component supply industry partners, indicating that a broader pool of skilled individuals for entry level positions in the motor manufacturing sector would be welcomed, and that these newly skilled individuals would be in demand for job placement,” says Evertse.
“The investment provides the company an ideal opportunity to deepen our economic contribution to the province and country, impacting on the sustainability of the local community and further enhancing the over 60-year long relationship with the Border Kei region,” he adds.
School leavers with a matric qualification, inclusive of Maths and Science subjects, were recruited for the training programme. Before admission, each applicant was required to successfully complete a multi-phased assessment process. A specialised training centre was set up to cater for instruction in both automotive theory, as well as practical, production-specific content.
Close to 400 of the top achievers from the training programme will be placed as production operators at MBSA. The remainder of the trainees are already in high demand from component suppliers to the company.
“The skills training programme is the most robust training initiative the company has undertaken since the mass recruitment drive for the W203 Mercedes-Benz C-Class project in 1999,” said Evertse. “The main objective is to give trainees a better understanding of our industry and equip them with the necessary skills to take up positions in the plant and start building platinum quality cars from day one.”
MBSA has a long and established track record of promoting excellence in skills development. For more than three decades, its Technical Training Centre in East London has supplied artisans of the highest calibre to its high-tech production facility, but more importantly for the automotive industry. This service was extended in 2012 to include a Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MerSETA) Trade Test Centre.
The skills training and recruitment drive is an important part of the company’s complex next generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class planning project, as preparations to ready the manufacturing facility for the introduction of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class model intensify over the next few months. Other major developments at the production facility include massive construction to build a new Bodyshop, and the introduction of numerous cutting-edge technologies.
Skills training programme students speak their mind:
Pola Saba: “This programme is paving a path for me towards my desire of growing in my career in logistics.”
Samantha Mentoor: “I have gotten what I wanted and that is to enhance my knowledge and skills about the motor industry. I now stand a better chance of getting a good job to better support my family.”
Cherwin Meinie: “Being trained in a company like Mercedes-Benz SA, which has a lot of potential growth opportunities and with such class is a big thing for me. It brings me a step closer to my dream of being a plant manager one day.”