College drives youth skills plan

Ndilisa Ntulo is studying to become a spray painter at First Car Care College.

A car-repair training college in Killarney Gardens is taking unemployed youths and turning them into qualified artisans.

First Car Care College provides free training to about 60 youths at a time to become panel beaters and spray painters.

The college is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training, and accredited with the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Merseta) and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).

Shaun Theron, who is responsible for the college’s marketing, said a group of Western Cape panel beaters had come together in 2001 to form a company that addresses industry related issues. The training centre was born from this project to train unemployed youth and help with job creation.

“In 2004 the group decided to have the training centre accredited and it expanded to offer accredited training as First Car Care College,” said Mr Theron.

The college started in Killarney Gardens then moved to Goodwood. When it outgrew its premises there it moved to Paarden Eiland. In January, the college came full circle when it moved back to Killarney Gardens, in Monza Road.

The college has a workshop that includes a spray booth, a panel beating area, and a polishing bay for practical training and repairs of vehicles to the public. There are also classrooms, a computer lab and a small room with bunks to accommodate students who come from far away.

Lungisa Ntulo, the college’s academic director, said most of the students come from Dunoon and Joe Slovo but many come from other areas, including Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Strand, Hanover Park, Nyanga and Kayamandi.

The college offers two qualifications: a two-year training programme in panel beating and an 18-month training programme in spray painting.

To be a part of the panel-beating programme, students need a minimum of Grade 10 pass with maths or a matric pass with maths literacy. To be part of the spray-painting programme, students need a minimum of Grade 9 pass with maths and science or a Grade 12 with pure maths.

After completing their theory training at the college, students are sent to “hosting companies” within the STI groups for their practical training. Mr Ntulo monitors and grades the apprentices.

“When they are done with all their training, they need to apply for trade tests in order to become qualified artisans,” he said.

Abigail Warwick, who works in the admin department said it was rewarding seeing the students evolve from “unskilled to skilled workers”.

“Some of them come in here poor and sometimes without food. We do what we can to assist. We provide individual attention and monitor them and that’s what sets our college apart from others,” said Ms Warwick.

Mr Theron said the automotive industry was huge and that he always reminded students about the “loads of opportunities” it had to offer.

“We work on their basic communications and instil work ethics and discipline. Part of the course is also basic computer literacy and students can draw up their own CVs.”

Although spray painting and panel beating might seem like predominantly male trades, Mr Theron said the college was no “boys’ club”, and in 2012 its first all-female class of panel beaters graduated.

Ndilisa Ntulo, 21, from Khayelitsha, is currently completing the spray-painting programme.

“I wanted to study civil engineering after I matriculated, but then my uncle told me about this programme, and I decided to do this instead. I really enjoy it.”

She plans to do her trade test in a few months and wants to open her own workshop one day.

Marvin van Dieman, 28, did the spray-painting course when he was 21.

“After I finished school, I was working in retail, but my dream was to work on cars. I wanted to get my hands dirty. I heard about the college from a colleague and I contacted them.”

He said his qualification could take him further than just doing spray painting. He mentioned becoming a vehicle damage quantifier as another career option.

Mr Theron said they were looking for business partners to help them roll the college out nationally.

“We need to get our youth off the streets and into jobs. About 50% of our country’s youth population is under the age of 30 and many are unemployed with nowhere to go and nothing to do,” he said.

Call 021 510 7722 or email if you would like to contribute to the First Car Care College programme or for more information.