Spies Hecker

Wonderboom Panelbeaters have been working hand-in-hand with IT-C and the hearing impaired learners for a few years now. They have ended up employing their deaf apprentices once they qualified in January last year, as they were all such an asset to their team.

Getting out of your comfort zone is always difficult, but then nothing worthwhile achieving is ever easy. Astrid Riekert, director at Wonderboom Panelbeaters, is passionate about making a difference in the collision repair trade, especially in regard to the gap in our collision repair market. After her father-in-law started the business 47 years ago, it has grown from strength to strength. The heart of their business is literally just that, they truly care about their customers, the professional work delivered and especially their team members.

BEE and Merseta benefits

Many of the deaf children in South Africa fall through the cracks in the system and most don’t even have a Grade 9 qualification, which is what you need to start training for a trade. The IT-C helps these learners who don’t have a Grade 9 achieve their four years of work experience in a body shop.

Astrid said, “The benefits of working in conjunction with IT-C is that a deaf person trained at IT-C can perform the tasks as described by Mibco “General Worker”, as that is the Skills Programme the deaf have already completed. As soon as the deaf person is employed  they can  contribute to production immediately.”

The Training  Matrix in BEE makes provision for a maximum for Skills Development points which is 20. Skills development expenditure on Learning Programme is specified in the Matrix for black people which will give you eight out of 20. The Matrix for disabled black people will give you another four out of 20. This amounts to 12 points if you train in your workplace.

So the idea is to get (semi-skilled) deaf persons employed in the body shops, and together with the help of IT-C take the deaf person through the ARPL-process, to qualify as a panelbeater or spraypainter.

While they are employed and being trained in a designated programme, the body shop gets the points under Skills Development, a total 12 out of 20. IT-C has undertaken this process for the past 16 years and have assisted nine deaf panelbeaters to get qualified, with a further 30 apprentices training at present.

Deaf learners in training also qualify for the Mandatory Grant from Merseta. Money spent on the training of the disabled can then be claimed back under the Mandatory Grant (WSP & ATR), making it really affordable to employ a trainee artisan.

The IT-C team will help you through the entire process of registration and any other paperwork and ins and outs that it take to sign on a deaf learner. They walk with you and the learner through the whole process up until qualification.

“My three deaf apprentices are truly the stars in our shop, always smiling, happy and such hard workers,” Astrid went on to say. “Our staff have learnt to communicate with them and we have grown as a team as a result. It has been an amazing learning curve for us all and we have realised how grateful we are in our lives to have our hearing.

“One of the strangest things are that all the staff now have a “sign language-name” and when we call each other we no longer need to shout out to call that person but we use our sign-names. For example our workshop manager, Ryno has a beard and the staff simply touch their chin’s to show the bearded man and we all know that’s Ryno. We all have a soft spot for our three hearing impaired apprentices and they are in turn so grateful that they were immediately welcomed into our working family. In the beginning Ryno would get calls from their family members to thank him for changing their lives and giving them this opportunity, we often get calls from granny’s or mothers who ask us if we are still happy with their son’s work.

“The process was a challenge in the beginning due to the language barrier but the more we communicated the easier it got and it took less than a month for some of the workshop staff to learn to do basic signs.

“I would 100% recommend that panel shops get involved in this programme as there is a massive skills gap in our industry and these kids really want to work –  they give 110% in effort and helpfulness!” she concluded.

Call IT-C on +27 (0)12 379 8684 or email info@it-c.co.za for more details on how you can become involved and truly make a huge difference, one desperately needed artisan at a time.