Motors, controls and electrical products supplier and solutions provider Zest WEG Group has, so far, donated equipment and finances to the value of R3.7-million this year and, through its various learnership programmes, currently gives 18 individuals the opportunity to improve their technical abilities.
Zest WEG Electric MD Gary Daines adds that the company has donated R6.7-million over the last two years in support of its drive to improve education and training in South Africa.
Zest WEG Group marketing manager Kirsten Larkan tells Engineering News that the learnership programmes run for an average of three years. Currently, the programmes’ participants comprise a technical apprentice, five artisans, eight candidate technicians, two BTech students and a female BEng student, who received a full bursary from Zest WEG Group last year to attend the University of Johannesburg.
Zest WEG Group sponsors and provides full employment for individuals during the learnership programme, with the exception of the BEng student, who will be offered employment only once she graduates.
Daines explains that the programmes provide a comprehensive understanding of the group’s operations, as students are exposed to all aspects of the business, including sales, technical support, manufac-turing and hands-on business training.
The duration of each training segment is about six months and is focused on developing learners’ technical abilities through practical training and theoretical knowledge through partnerships with learning institutions, which test the students continually and ultimately certify them.
Larkan notes that Zest WEG Group’s learnership programmes are focused on upskilling and providing opportunities for unemployed youths from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. The company proudly produced its first 14 graduates last year, six of whom are women.
The graduates are all certified candidate electricians and have received the National Qualifications Framework Level 4 certificate from various tertiary institutions.
Larkan adds that the company finances and assists students through participation in mentorships offered by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE), as well as professional registration with these bodies.
Daines points out that, through Zest WEG Group’s partnership with learning institutions, it has identified aspects to which it could further add value to training. The company found that many of the institutions either do not have the necessary equipment for practical training purposes or the equipment being used is outdated.
Subsequently, Zest WEG Group has donated modern equipment to a number of institutions, which provides learners with exposure to equipment currently used in the field.
Larkan adds that Zest WEG Group has provided donations in the form of financial aid and equipment, as well as continuing professional development (CPD) training for lecturers.
Zest WEG Group offers nine ECSA- and SAIEE-accredited courses, which offer between 0.75 CPD points and 2 CPD points. Courses include training in variable-speed drive CFW-09 and CFW-11 technology; programmable logic controller (PLC) WEG Ladder Programme (WLP) software; soft starter; smart relay SRW-01 systems; intermediate-level electric motors; a drives practical refresher; a drives service course; and customer on-site training.
Daines highlights that the company’s CPD courses stem from a need to provide customers with training, which resulted in the establishment of a training facility at the company’s Johannesburg head office in 2005.
Subsequently, demand for training led to Zest WEG Group opening training facilities in Rustenburg, Durban, Cape Town and, most recently, Middelburg, which opened last year.
Zest WEG Group has also provided training for companies in Zambia, Ghana, Malawi and Angola, which prompted a demand for courses to be conducted in Portuguese, in addition to English. Larkan points out that increased demand in French-speaking African nations has highlighted a need to offer training in French, which is a likely development for the company in the future.
Daines highlights that the group also encourages personnel to attend CPD training, stating that this has not only helped improve the overall skills of staff but has also been invaluable in improving staff retention and giving the company a competitive advantage.
“Every phone call is an opportunity and we need to ensure that we have the skills to take advantage of all opportunities. As the business grows and enters new markets, we need to ensure that we constantly develop skills at every level of the business,” he says.
Daines adds that Zest WEG Group also actively promotes further education and training for its peronnel in all fields of the business, including sales, engineering, soft skills, information technology and management training at all qualification levels.