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Local tyre industry drives skills development to address SA unemployment crisis

Home Business Management Education & Training Local tyre industry drives skills development to address SA unemployment crisis

WITH new technologies and production processes emerging globally in tyre production, the South African Tyre Manufacturers Conference (SATMC), and its member companies, are investing heavily in skills development to ensure a pipeline of expertise is in place for future growth.

Bridgestone South Africa, Continental Tyre South Africa, Goodyear South Africa, and Sumitomo Rubber South Africa continue to plough back into learnerships, graduate development, internal upskilling, and supplier development programmes to enhance the talent pool in the tyre industry.

Managing executive of the SATMC, Nduduzo Chala, said, “We believe that this industry can play a role in addressing the country’s high unemployment rate which currently exceeds 32%. Over the five-year period between 2018 and 2022, our member companies invested R369 million into skills development initiatives, contributing towards the long-term sustainability of the industry, and empowering individuals with the skills they need to contribute meaningfully to the economy. This was out of a total of R29,7 billion contributed by members towards the South African economy over the same period,” he said.

Local small medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) are also being empowered, with many maturing to become suppliers to these multinational tyre companies with local plants in South Africa. Supplier and enterprise development investments by the four manufacturers amounted to R117.5 million over the past five years, while expenditure with local suppliers amounted to R16.6 billion.

 Upskilling the sector

Proudly, all manufacturers create a people-focused company culture that encourages time for learning and skills development. Long-running internal training programmes are in place to ensure continued development of local skills that meet global demands. The manufacturers offer bursaries and study grants for employees to advance their undergraduate and post graduate studies in line with future capability requirements, as well as leadership development programmes, short courses and mentorship initiatives.

Digital platforms are being harnessed to drive skills development. Bridgestone, for example, has an HR Learning Hub that provides a dedicated, digitally powered learning space for employees to access learning content, in line with the company’s strategy to bring digital empowerment to all employees. Continental Tyre SA has developed a bespoke online training platform, the ContiAcademy, which offers a consumer-friendly, multimedia hub of extensive product information to support its employees and customers.

Sumitomo Rubber SA operates an on-site training facility in Ladysmith where employees receive training sessions all year round. In addition, the company has recently opened the Dunlop Westville centre, which serves as a hub for technical and training expertise for the broader tyre retail industry. Currently, the manufacturer is engaged in evaluating the skill levels of operators to determine the talent development programme for staff next year. As part of this initiative, certain operators will receive international skills exposure.

Opportunities for youth

A key focus of SATMC members is creating opportunities for youth, who face the biggest unemployment challenges in South Africa. Structured learnership and graduate programmes support the growth of the local tyre sector while providing a platform for young people to attain suitable qualifications, skills and work experience.

Continental Tyre South Africa, Goodyear and Bridgestone South Africa participate in the business-led Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative.

The YES initiative aims to create 1 million, new, 12-month job opportunities for young people, providing them with work exposure across various industries.

Of a total of 151 young people who have been trained at Bridgestone, 52 (one-third) have been absorbed into the business. In addition, Bridgestone partnered with Junior Achievement South Africa (JASA) to provide 20 hours of instructor-led training to youth on emerging technologies, design thinking, entrepreneurship and professional skills.

At Goodyear, more than 160 unemployed youth have benefited from the YES programme, and some have been able to secure permanent employment in the organisation.

Continental Tyre has opted to invest in further training and support for its YES learners. The company provides learners with a certificate of completion and an employment reference, helps them with putting together a CV and, through their provider, assists them in finding permanent employment.

Graduate in Training (GIT) Programmes, typically a year in duration, are also on offer from all members. On completion, graduates could progress to full-time permanent positions within the respective tyre companies, including their international operations. Goodyear reports that its own GIT programme has attracted and built strong leaders who have progressed to leadership roles, not only within the South African business but to Goodyear globally.

 Building technical capability

All four manufacturers are focused on building technical capability in manufacturing to ensure the local tyre sector is future-fit.

Bridgestone offers a youth-focused apprentice programme with a special focus on sought after skills in the electrical trade, as well as a production technology learnership with a focus on production and quality. The company is enhancing capabilities in its tyre building space by training six operators as expert tyre builders, through its global manufacturing education programme delivered in collaboration with the Bridgestone plant in Spain.

Goodyear South Africa’s flagship programme – the National Certificate in Production Technology – was launched in 2020 and has seen more than 140 unemployed youth acquiring key skills through various learnership programmes, with some offered permanent employment.

At Continental Tyre SA, the BestDrive Learnership Programme was established in February 2019, in consultation with merSETA, the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education authority. It was created to centre around the National Certificate, Automotive Repair and Maintenance with a focus on Tyre Fitment. The company has also contributed to various other learnership programmes in the last few years, including Unity in Africa’s iGems programme which helps foster aspiring engineering minds starting in grade 10 all the way through to their tertiary qualifications.

At Sumitomo Rubber SA, more than 400 tyre learnerships have been run at its Ladysmith plant for unemployed youth aged 18 to 34, providing them with an NQF Level 3 certificate in one of three qualifications: Tyre and Tyre Components, Tyre Assembly and Quality Checking of Tyres. The company trains 60 learners every year from the Ladysmith community and absorbs 90% of them for subsequent full-time employment.

Finance remains an important consideration in supporting the youth, and the bursary schemes at Bridgestone and Goodyear not only cater for employees but subsidise their dependents’ tertiary studies as well. In addition, Bridgestone continues to provide bursaries to identified learners in Gqeberha, while Goodyear donated a cash sum in 2022 to the Nelson Mandela University Trust Fund for bursary funding to qualifying students.

Finally, people with disabilities in the manufacturing space are also included in members’ training and skills development programmes.

Summing up the commitment of SATMC members, Chala says, “Skills development is crucial for the local tyre manufacturing sector to remain competitive and produce safe products that meet high quality standards and consumer demands. Our members’ ongoing investments in this area will drive growth in the South African economy and create opportunities for the future.”

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