Spies Hecker

Back in May 2018, BASF Coatings Services (Pty) Ltd formally launched its spray-painting apprenticeship pilot programme at its Refinish Competence Centre (RCC) in Midrand, Johannesburg.
“The idea behind the apprenticeship programme was simple,” explains BASF Coatings Services MD, Paul Mandersloot. “In August 2017, it was noted by deputy secretary general of the ANC Jessie Duarte, that there is a shortfall of approximately 40 000 qualified artisans in South Africa. When this is measured against the annual production rate of 13 000 qualified artisans, this is an obvious concern. Further research indicated that the average age of qualified artisans (including spray painters) in South Africa was 55 years old. While the number of young people being trained, specifically in the refinish sector was minimal compared to the real industry need.
“Whilst we know that the current rate of youth unemployed in South Africa is dire, we also know that a young person who has had the opportunity to learn and develop a practical skill, together with a formal qualification, will obviously attract more opportunities to work as an individual, and skilled labour is what South Africa needs right now more than ever”, said Mandersloot.
BASF Coatings Services had been experiencing this shortage of qualified skill in the industry first hand, working with many of their customers, who complained, for various reasons that they really struggled to source spray-painters with full qualifications, relevant experience but also as importantly, positive and engaged workplace behaviours.
To address this challenge head-on, BASF partnered with NF Apprentices, a non-profit organisation that assists body repair shops with administering apprenticeship programmes. Together, BASF Coatings Services and NF Apprentices worked to develop a pilot project concept for an apprentice programme that provided 10 young people with not only the theoretical and practical spray-painting skills required to qualify, but also taught and coached the participants on topics like personal financial management, self-awareness, conflict management and emotional intelligence.
Through this pilot project, the apprentices were placed in Glasurit body shops across Gauteng, with BASF covering the costs of stipends, training, PPE and equipment, and were mentored by BASF’s consultants and technicians in partnership with NF Apprentices and the shops until they qualify for their spray painting certificate; a three-year programme.
Right now, all BASF apprentices have completed their level two qualifications and are readying themselves to launch into their final qualifying exams in early 2021. All involved parties have no doubt that thereafter the automotive refinish industry can welcome qualified and motivated spray painters.
“It’s been a learning process – not just for the apprentices!” commented Mandersloot. “Launching a programme like this has not been without its challenges. But we’re immensely proud and grateful for how NF Apprentices, our customers and our own technical staff have supported this initiative by mentoring, coaching and actively participating in building the future of our industry.”
Here are first-hand stories of a body shop owner and three apprentices. Eddie da Silva, owner of Auto Body Specialists; co-founder of NF Apprentices
Eddie da Silva, owner of Auto Body Specialists; co-founder of NF Apprentices
Currently hosting two BASF Apprentices within his business, Eddie was happy to describe the benefits he has experienced by having apprentices in his shop. In his view having apprentices might seem like a hassle in the beginning and there’s always a fear of mistakes being made, but with proper processes in place and with the support of the experienced shop team (and BASF Technicians at hand), the apprentice can grow rapidly in just a matter of months. They can be extremely productive in a very short space of time. Apprentices help build capacity in business in a very real way – and the benefit of that certainly outweigh the costs.
A major concern for many body shop owners is the administrative requirement of registering apprentices, booking trade tests, claiming back training levies, compiling portfolios of evidence, etc. All of this can sound like a full-time job in itself – but this is exactly the reason NF Apprentices was founded – to assist body repair shops with successfully administering apprenticeship programmes whilst meeting their skills and training objectives.
Ntombi Makhubele
Ntombi Makhubele is 25 years old and is placed at Auto Body Specialists in Midrand. When she left school, she knew she was passionate about cars, and so went to college to study Mechanical Engineering. After she completed her certificate, getting a job without practical experience was really challenging. She heard about the Spray-Painting apprenticeship programme and got in contact with NF Apprentices.
Everything about starting the apprenticeship was new for Ntombi. She said that she was happy to start from the bottom because every day she was learning something new. From flatting, preparing vehicles, mixing, how to hold a spray gun, how to mix primers and colours using a computer to the actual painting process.
Ntombi said she kept reminding herself that she was here to learn, and that was her sole focus. Aside from the technical stuff, Ntombi says that her biggest learning over the last two years has been to become more emotionally resilient. Through the training workshops (as part of the programme), she’s learnt to manage her reactions, calm herself and focus on the task at hand. After qualifying, Ntombi hopes to be a technician one day, but right now colours are her passion, and she knows that she still has a lot to learn. 41V (Soul Red Metallic) on a Mazda was the most challenging colour she’s had to mix so far, but she loved every minute of the (three-stage) process.
Nyiko Ubisi
Nyiko Ubisi is also 25 years old and is now placed with Ntombi at Auto Body Specialists in Midrand. Nyiko loved cars from childhood. He left school and studied IT, but quickly realised that sitting behind a computer all day wasn’t what he really wanted and sought out a career that would allow him to focus on his first love, cars. The biggest adjustment for him in working in a body shop environment was the constant pressure and the noise. Like Ntombi, Nyiko started out in the prep area and moved quickly into painting given the circumstances of the shop he was in at the time.
For Nyiko, he’s learnt a lot and is grateful for the journey. One of his greatest disappointments in the process was when he failed his first attempt at his second level theory exams. But he describes the process he went through of realising that it’s not the end of his journey – and deliberately going back to work out where he went wrong and fixing those errors.
He passed his second attempt with flying colours. Nyiko wants to stay in the industry and knows that he will still have a lot to learn after he qualifies. He hopes that he’ll be able to spend five or six years in a body shop, still learning and consolidating his skill. He then aspires to work as a technician or technical trainer… at BASF of course! He’s learnt so much already, he can’t wait to share with others.
Samukelisiwe Ncgobo
Samukelisiwe Ncgobo is based at BMW Sandton ARC in Wynberg. Sam says that the common question she receives is “Why spray-painting? Why aren’t you in dressmaking or fashion?” She said that she did a lot of research into the industry and was amazed and inspired by the videos of car repairs that she saw on various media channels. She realised that having the skill of painting would set her up and set her apart for growth and opportunities in the future. Sam says that while she grew up thinking that there were some jobs just for men, and others for women – but that time has passed, and she’s grateful for that.
The biggest thing that Sam says she’s learnt in this programme is to persevere and pay attention to the details. The smallest details can make the difference between success and failure. When asked what advice she had for young people considering a career and qualification in the refinish sector, she said that the biggest advice she has is to jump in with both feet and embrace the opportunity. It’s a massive privilege to learn from those around you.
Sam’s hope and plan for the future is to stay in the industry and stay in the booth for at least the next four to five years. She doesn’t plan on specialising at this point and wants to keep learning and developing her own skill and own style.
Looking ahead
In 2021, BASF plans to run another three-year spray-painting apprenticeship programme. If you’d like one of our fully funded apprentices in your shop, please contact your BASF Technician or call Mary on +27 (0)11 203 2627 or email mary.theron@basf.com.
For more information on NF Apprentices, and how they can support you manage your panel beating or spray painting apprenticeship programme, please contact Michael/Eddie on +27 (0)11 805 3867 or email michael@nf.org.za