Atlas Copco product and training sponsorship empowers informal mechanics
Atlas Copco South Africa (Pty) Ltd has for the past five years been a proud supporter of the Filpro enterprise development programme, an inspirational initiative that empowers and upskills informal mechanics to become active participants in the country’s formal mainstream economy. Social responsibility is one of Atlas Copco’s core focuses and the company remains resolute in its efforts to give back to the community within which it operates. “The Filpro programme is thus a perfect fit for Atlas Copco’s two business areas, Industrial Technique and Compressor Technique, purveyors of a comprehensive world-class product portfolio for the automotive industry,” says Supplier Development Manager, Marilyn Govender. There are countless unskilled as well as skilled mechanics, who have worked within the formal automotive sector, operating informal service centres with little or no infrastructure and limited access to tools and equipment. Automotive component manufacturers, G.U.D. Holdings and NGK Spark Plugs requested a survey to find out more about this informal business sector. While the survey, conducted by Mboneni ‘Bonnie’ Magada, revealed many challenges faced by these mechanics (lack of funding, inadequate workspace, etc.), it also uncovered tremendous potential. Wanting to make a difference, G.U.D. and NGK established Filpro in January 2012 with the objectives of empowering and developing disadvantaged mechanics so that they are able to transform their informal businesses into formal enterprises and in so doing, also create much needed employment opportunities. The Filpro programme, headed by Managing Director, Bonnie, supports a five-element model - identification and assessment; training; monitoring and coaching; access to market and compliancy. “We put the Filpro programme into action by driving through Gauteng’s townships, identifying and assessing disadvantaged mechanics and informal workshops that we believe would benefit from the programme,” explains Bonnie. “One of the biggest hurdles faced by mechanics is the registration of a business, an expensive and time consuming exercise that can take up to three months. Filpro is registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CPIC) so we are able to register the businesses on behalf of the mechanics who are required to provide four business names and pay the registration fee to ensure their buy-in.” Filpro is an accredited training provider with services SETA and employees are qualified as facilitators, assessors and moderators. Technical and product training are key elements in the Filpro programme model, combining the mechanics’ informal experience with formal training and qualifications. The programme offers training on the correct use of tooling as well as the proper fitment of quality automotive parts to ensure good service and repeat business. The programme beneficiaries receive training on various automotive parts such as filters, brake pads, lubricants and spark plugs. Mechanics are also given soft skills training on how to run a business (basic business management, finance, bookkeeping, Consumer Protection Act, etc.). Compliancy matters such the submission of annual tax returns and environmental issues including the responsible disposal of motor oil are also addressed. During this financial year approximately 80 mechanics were given an opportunity to participate in technical training at the AA Academy; 60 completed their trade tests and are now qualified motor mechanics. Armed with this qualification, the mechanics are now able to move into the mainstream with confidence and establishes customer trust. Patrick Modisane, a non-executive director of Atlas Copco, has been involved with the programme from the get-go and in 2015 Atlas Copco Industrial Technique and Compressor Technique embraced the Filpro programme through the sponsorships. Industrial Technique has donated a wide range of tools including sockets, torque and impact wrenches, drills, sanders jacks, and engine lifts. Compressor Technique sponsored forty five Automan 2.2kW 3 HP compressors and the two business areas support the products with training as well as product repair or replacement. Bonnie expresses her sincere appreciation of long-standing partners like Atlas Copco. “Thanks to this type of support, over 100 mechanics in Gauteng and KZN have received workshops tools worth over R2 million since the inception of the programme.” Once mechanics have qualified they are visited regularly by Filpro-appointed Project Coordinators in Gauteng, KZN, Western Cape as well as the Free State and Northern Cape to assess their progress, determine their needs and provide ongoing training. “We’re in this for the long run, there is no exit strategy,” states Bonnie. “The Project Coordinators, who are also responsible for identifying informal mechanics that can benefit from this initiative, must be passionate about wanting to make a difference by helping others.” “When appointing Project Coordinators we target qualified people who were previously unemployed so, in addition to adding value to the programme, we are also creating jobs and providing opportunities to grow,” continues Bonnie. “We recently promoted Senior Project Coordinator, Mduduzi Mahlalela, to Project Manager.” Currently some 1000 mechanics are active in the programme across Gauteng, the Kwa-Zulu Natal eThekwini Municipality, Northern Cape, Free State, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth) and Limpopo with plans to widen the footprint to Richards Bay. With approximately 1600 businesses registered since 2012, the programme is a game changer, producing many success stories: The programme assisted Kenneth Ramonisi and his partner Trevor Ntsenya to obtain their Trade Certificates in Motor Mechanics and move their motor mechanic business from a backyard operation in Kagiso Township on Johannesburg’s West Rand to a registered workshop, Kagiso Autotec, in Chamdor. “Since joining the programme in 2013, we have employed two more people, increased our customer base and grown our monthly business income six fold!” comment Kenneth and Trevor. Qualified motor mechanic, Geelboy Mahlangu, was introduced to the Filpro Enterprise Development Programme in 2014 by one of his customers. Geelboy started his mechanic career as an Air Craft Maintenance Technician and was a Senior Technical Advisor at three leading automotive brands. The programme enabled Geelboy to leave his employ of 25 years to establish Thembinqobile Auto in Fourways, with a second branch in Alberton; Geelboy is also RMI accredited. Recognising the excellent and sustainable results of the Filpro programme, Atlas Copco has pledged continued commitment and support of this worthy initiate through ongoing product sponsorships and training. “By building and establishing brand awareness amongst people who have not previously had formal training we are installing a lifelong preference for one brand over another,” concludes Marilyn. Atlas Copco is a world-leading provider of sustainable productivity solutions. The Group serves customers with innovative compressors, vacuum solutions and air treatment systems, construction and mining equipment, power tools and assembly systems. Atlas Copco develops products and services focused on productivity, energy efficiency, safety and ergonomics. The company was founded in 1873, is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has a global reach spanning more than 180 countries. In 2016, Atlas Copco had revenues of BSEK 101 (BEUR 11) and about 45 000 employees. Learn more at www.atlascopco.co.za.