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What started out as an action research project became a labour of love for education, training and research company Eduskills. The company was appointed in January 2020 by the British Council to assist up-and-coming township-based automotive enterprises to become approved centres of workplace learning. 

The project was successfully completed in February 2021. Anybody who has been through the process of accreditation will tell you that it is a daunting and sometimes soul-destroying task at the best of times. Fortunately for Eduskills, they found a willing and able partner in the MERSETA who provided much assistance and know-how in navigating the compliance criteria that the automotive enterprises had to meet.

“It is a testimony to the leadership and hard work provided by Bajith Panday and the Eduskills team and the tenacity shown by the small enterprises that saw them persevere until the very end. Their success in becoming MERSETA compliant has made it possible for the students from Tshwane North College to complete their workplace-based learning in an environment that is conducive to mentoring and learning,” said Jean September, deputy director British Council South Africa.

This in itself provides us with a workable model to take to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) for consideration. Indeed, as we negotiate the Decade of the Artisan (2020-2030) it is imperative that we find sufficient approved workplaces of learning to meet the demand of training 30 000 artisans every year until the year 2030. These new workplaces need to increasingly start coming from small township-based enterprises, who through this seminal project, have proven that artisanship and entrepreneurship can make for happy bedfellows in a controlled environment.

The success of this project is largely attributed to the solid work produced by Alpheus Lebelo, of the Tshwane North  College, who trained the students and equipped them with vital skills in autobody repair, spraypainting and automotive mechanics, to take them into the workplace.

In addition, False Bay College and Ekurhuleni West College participated as case study colleges in the research project. A word of thanks to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) who provided a database of small businesses in the automotive sector from which the baseline study was drawn. 

In order for this type of action research pilot to be truly beneficial it is imperative that the policy makers in the DHET and QCTO can take full cognisance of the lessons learnt from this project in order to make systemic changes to how we approach workplace-based learning in future.

To this end Bajith Panday, director of Eduskills has pledged to disseminate the findings of the research report so that key stakeholders could engage with them and see how best to utilise them to the benefit of artisanship in South Africa.

By Bajith Panday