Developing mechanical skills through partnerships
By Kafula Chanda
Every business evolves as a result of technological advancements in the transport and communication industry. This is one reason most firms in the transport sector operate on a grand scale level and should always strive to stay current in the use of technology solutions.
Like other sectors, these changes in the industry may render some skills obsolete and result in making way for new types of careers.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the transport and communications sector in Zambia has been the fastest growing one in terms of value-added in the last decade, rising at a rate of 27.2% annually between 2008 and 2014.
In 2008, the sector created about 30,000 formal new jobs, a figure that eventually increased to more than 70,000 in 2014.
To bridge any skill gaps that may occur as a result of unprecedented development activities in various industries, Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) institutions must continue to ensure that the appropriate skills are developed.
However, they cannot do this without the participation of other players, particularly the private sector and development agencies.
This is why the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has been supporting the Government in identifying and implementing a sustainable and inclusive project crafted to provide solutions to industrial skills development needs.
So far, innovative partnerships have been mobilized with the Northern Technical College (NORTEC) through the Ministry of Technology and Science and TEVETA, Volvo Group, and the Swedish Embassy in Zambia to establish the Zambian Industrial Training Academy (ZAMITA).
The academy’s main goal is to give technical training opportunities in automotive and heavy equipment engineering to Zambian youths in order to develop a qualified workforce for the country’s transport and mining sector.
“We could see that if we engaged in projects where we supported the school system and thereby provided a market to build long-term capacity for these trades, we would not only strengthen our business but also support these societies,” says Johan Reiman, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Volvo Group.
For many years, Volvo Group has been a significant supporter of the skills development agenda.
As one of the global private sector partners in the ZAMITA, a public-private development partnership (PPDP) project, Volvo has continued to reinforce its commitments by extending its collaborative efforts to incentivize the project through a variety of programs and interventions.
The supply of modern equipment for training, technology transfer programs through Training of Trainers (TOTs) was one of the few such examples of the joint ventures aimed at developing the engineering skills base of the country.
Since 2016, Volvo has been implementing the TOTs programs. These programs strive to expose NORTEC teaching professionals to the new technologies that are currently shaping the global auto industry.
With the support of TEVETA, NORTEC trainers along with the Volvo engineers and other private sector partners in Zambia supported the curriculum modernization program which is funded by the Ministry of Technology and Science.
This revised curriculum is expected to ensure the generation of professional automotive technicians in accordance with the latest technological breakthroughs in the automotive sector.
TOTS are where Volvo introduced new technologies and trained the NORTEC teaching staff to improve the present automotive curriculum.
This initiative incorporates Volvo’s in-house technical specialists who undertake an evaluation of the college’s teachers, train and share knowledge with them at frequent intervals. Volvo has performed over 14 TOTS thus far, both on-site at NORTEC and abroad at Volvo Trucks in South Africa. More than 10 NORTEC automotive teachers have benefited from these training sessions.
Volvo Trucks SA also receives a select number of NORTEC teachers to go on an industrial attachment and gain new skills and experience hands-on in the following areas of expertise:
Engine series maintenance and repair, truck steering, suspension, wheels and tire systems, truck transmission systems, hydraulics and braking systems for trucks, heavy equipment, electricals and vehicle electronics, and engine management systems.
So far, two on-the-job trainings have been held in Johannesburg, with four teachers benefiting.
Another essential intervention for effective technology transfer is that the Volvo Group has continued to offer NORTEC with resources ranging from modernized equipment, vehicles, and parts along with access to its online e-Learning and technical information portals from the inception of the ZAMITA project since 2016.
Recently, modernized equipment along with its special service tools from Volvo were installed to suit the heavy equipment training curriculum which includes engines, transmissions, onsite excavator,
hydraulic and electrical test rigs and other special service components.
In addition, Volvo supplied more training equipment in 2018 for NORTEC’s automotive department used for training which included engines, transmissions, fixtures, tools and a modern Euro six emission Volvo truck.
Volvo’s active role in skills development is enhancing the academy with the most recent industry innovations recently introduced to the technical training market. This was significant considering the massive advances in technological usage in the transportation business.
NORTEC acting head of Automotive Department Enerst Mwaba, said: “We feel that the Volvo’s Training of Trainers program continues to benefit a growing number of our students. This initiative not only helps us enhance the overall quality of our training delivery, but I am confident it also promotes our students’ job placements after graduation”.
Mr Mwaba also stated: “We place a premium on developing a generation of young people who are skilled, disciplined, and capable of contributing to the industry. Our programs are aimed at generating self-motivated students with solid technical expertise. Volvo Trucks; support has provided our students with essential experience and latest technology in line with global standards.”
It is only hoped that training programmes in various mechanical fields will enable professionals being absorbed in various industries to apply the acquired skills, using modern machinery or tools to add value to national economic development.