Daily Dispatch  |  11 Mar 2017  |  By MBALI TANANA

IT WAS an exciting time for 58 disabled students who graduated from the Mercedes-Benz South Africa Learnership programme at the East London plant yesterday.

The programme, which is often advertised in the Daily Dispatch, allows for disabled persons to apply and get an opportunity to be part of the learnership programme which provides students with information about work opportunities available at the giant car manufacturing company.

MBSA spokesman Asanda Fongqo said the programme aimed to upskill people living with physical abilities and empower them to make do with their abilities.

“This initiative is part of MBSA’s contribution to skills development and giving back to people with disabilities in our communities. Beneficiaries are people with disabilities who reside in East London and its surroundings.

“The initial learnership which was afforded to these individuals was a business administration programme which ran up to NQF level 5 and on average, and the programme costs amounted to R2-million over four years.

“The current programme is a production technology learnership (NQF level 3).”

Fongqo said the company had invested about R14-million in training and developing people with disabilities.

Keynote speaker Marissa Nel of Marissa Nel & Associates, an orthotic and prosthetic specialist, inspired the graduates not to allow themselves to be “crippled” by their disabilities, but to dream big and work towards their dreams.

Mdantsane resident Sandisiwe Mbiyozo, 33, said the learnership was a life-changing experience for her.

“When I first applied for the learnership I was frustrated with being unemployed and I was very interested in knowing about what happens at MBSA, a company which appeared to be male-dominated.

“Through the programme I have gained a wealth of knowledge and received a deeper insight on the day-today running of the plant, from how a car is made from start to the end product.

“I am very excited with my achievement and thankful to MBSA,” she said.

Mawande Majali, 39, said the learnership had been informative. “We have learnt a lot and we have been assigned to different mentors in different departments which have given us a broader idea of the many departments within the company.

“It’s been an eye-opening opportunity and I have been blessed to be among the candidates who are part of the programme.”
Abba Majavu, 30, from Cambridge, said the programme had boosted his confidence and communication skills.

“We have been forced to engage with people, some in management which was intimidating at first, but we’ve had to ask questions and therefore overcome our fears.”

Simphiwe Gafeni said his skills in leadership, management and admin had improved.

“We have been taught the importance of working as a team, which has stood out the most, among other things,” he said.
MBSA employees who underwent the Fit for Level programmes, which develop employees in their respective fields, were also awarded certificates.

Serisha Piyaray from human resource development said she got to understand what the company was all about, while Christy Joseph from quality management said they got to explore the different roles of each department. — mbalit@dispatch.