Gearhouse South Africa runs the annual Kentse Mpahlwa Gearhouse Academy, industry learnership programme from training centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. This programme is a full-time, in-house training programme with theoretical and practical components in key technical services such as lighting, rigging, audio-visual, structures and power. 

The Academy currently has a total of 57 learners in the JHB, CPT and DBN branches combined. 

“We have had over 400 applications in the branches (and they are still coming in),” says Josef Van Schalkwyk, Gearhouse’s Training Manager.” It takes an intensive process of interviews with Heads of Departments and Branch Management to select the final 33 to start their first year each year. We require a minimum of Matric with Maths or Maths Literacy as well as enthusiasm and commitment from our learners from all backgrounds” 

In 2014, 33 first year learners and 19 second years have been admitted to the programme in the JHB, CTN and DBN branches and 5 Graduates have been placed fulltime in Gearhouse, within Power, Audio and Lighting Departments.

“In the Technical Services industry, technology is advancing with rapid strides and learners have to be involved in these developments as Gearhouse utilises these new technologies and equipment. We are constantly updating our notes. We involve other companies in the Gearhouse Group, such as IVTM, Splitbeam and LEDVision, who take in 2nd year level learners for specialisation. These companies also use our Learnership as a feeder ground” says Josef.

“An exciting part of my journey here with the Kentse Mpahlwa Gearhouse Academy has been the coming together of all the stakeholders in our Industry to address skills shortages and discuss other training possibilities with other facilities and Universities. In the Arts, there has not been enough research and recognition of the various technical skills and support crew and we are all working together to address this in Government, Live events, Hospitality and Sport” he adds.

Melissa Pillay who manages the training in the Durban branch concurs, “My greatest pleasure has to be witnessing students coming into our learnership with little or no knowledge of our industry, putting in the hours to complete their theory and practical modules and, within a year, becoming empowered with knowledge and skills that will stay with them throughout their lives. The best part of my job is watching these students show the world their worth. Granted, we work in a tough, time-consuming industry and these students need to go the extra mile to achieve their goals and dreams. It’s no easy ride, but some of them have never had the chance to find their strengths and shine and we have an amazing workforce here that can help these students reach their potential and find their niche through sharing of knowledge and expertise. Watching the HoDs, technicians and students interact shows the true meaning of mentorship.” 

The contribution of the HoDs and technicians and guidance and support of the Training Managers, come together to tailor this learnership to suit the Technical Services Industry very specifically. Although the number of graduates taken on in permanent positions at Gearhouse is relatively small, others join a pool of independent contractors who can be used on freelance basis or find permanent employment elsewhere in this fast-growing industry. 

Lisa Smit, Training Officer at the Cape Town branch elaborates on what motivates her involvement in the Kentse Mpahlwa Gearhouse learnership. “For me it is about watching the students develop. Many come from very tough circumstances; some have been unemployed for long periods or are finishing school with no idea what to do next. These youngsters have limited career opportunities due to their financial constraints and when they join the learnership and acquire skills, it boosts their self – esteem. They build character, learn self-motivation and become part of a working team and a positive environment. They walk tall in their communities.”

At the Cape Town branch, almost 90% of the current technical workforce have come through the learnership - a huge achievement for Lisa and the Academy. “What is awesome to see is that the previous students are now teaching and mentoring the new students. It has finally come full circle and is feeding back into itself” she adds.

The Kentse Mpahlwa Gearhouse Learnership doesn’t offer permanent employment; just opportunities. The students who have completed the first year only are all well on their way to making careers as freelancers across the industry in a variety of fields. They also fit back into the Gearhouse teams very easily and as a result many are working frequently. Students who have used a second year to specialise, enter the industry as mid-weight technicians and offer distinct value to technical teams going out on events. These are show operators rather than junior or assistant staff. 

“Our ultimate goal is to empower the youth with skills and knowledge of the industry in order for them to be employable. In order to do this, we give them the best training and mentorship we can”.

Story Akani Tshimbane, Photo Kaelo Engage

Mar 28, 2014

The Gearhouse Group of Companies