Try-a-Trade programme a success

By Ilana Koegelenberg

OTTC, in partnership with the Copper Development Association Africa (CDAA), has sponsored nine young students to take part in the Try-a-Trade (TAT) programme, to tackle the undeniable skills issue that our industry (and others) face.

The TAT programme provides young school leavers with the opportunity to try a trade and learn more about the HVAC&R industry. The aim of the project is to increase awareness about the HVAC&R industry, while equipping the students with the necessary skills that will make them premium candidates for employment and development. Finding talent and commitment can be a time-consuming activity for any company.

In keeping with tradition, the end of the TAT programme and prize-giving were celebrated with German fare at the college on 25 April 2018.

CDAA involvement

The Open Trade Training Centre (OTTC) would like to thank CDAA for their support throughout the project. A generous sponsorship of R60 000 from CDAA at the end of 2017 was doubled to provide training for school leavers.

“Instead of putting the money into the coffers of OTTC, we chose to double the sum and offer two weeks of free training to 12 school leavers wanting to follow a career in the trade of refrigeration,” explained Isolde Döbelin, director at OTTC. “With the training, the youngsters would not have to first find employment before entering the job market. Many young people today spend months and even years after leaving school before they find employment. After our two weeks of training, they would be much better equipped to find employment and encouraged to gain vocational training in refrigeration,” she said.

OTTC immediately advertised the offer of free training on their website, via Facebook, and locally at shopping centres. From the responses, they convinced nine applicants to take part and they started training in April. They were split in two groups and each group started with workplace health and safety, followed by safe use of hand tools.

Training programme

During the TAT programme, OTTC assesses students’ skill levels, as well as eagerness to learn and work. With the assessment results, candidates can be reviewed and are highly recommended for employment by OTTC.

During the two weeks of initial training, the nine students took part in various training sessions. Döbelin introduced the students to HVAC&R, as well as broadened their horizons by discussing the numerous career opportunities available in this industry.

Programme results

Various criteria were used to assess the TAT candidates throughout their training.

A theoretical component included health and safety aspects, different types of copper piping, and porta pack (oxygen and acetylene) maintenance and use. A large part of every project included calculation of the copper piping needed, angles, and bends.

Intangible aspects were also assessed, such as work ethic, willingness to learn, group working skills, and general interest in refrigeration and air conditioning.

During the TAT programme, OTTC assessed students’ skill levels, as well as eagerness to learn and work.

The students’ final project was to create a sculpture from copper piping and sheeting. The project required them to make use of all the skills they had learnt. All the artisan projects were then mounted and proudly placed on a four-metre-high copper sculpture that will always be part of OTTC history.

The two highest achieving candidates in all the above categories were awarded sponsorships from OTTC to attend the OTTC Beginners Programme, which consists of 14 weeks’ training valued at R6 900 per week.

The remaining seven candidates were also sponsored with four weeks of additional training of their choice.

OTTC would like to see that all the candidates are placed into partnerships with companies where they can greatly contribute and grow over time.

OTTC will continuously be developing the candidates over the next few weeks, building an artisan report for each student, which will be available to companies seeking young talent.

“We look forward to continuing the candidates’ training and seeing their growth as they are launched into the market,” said Döbelin. “We wish them all the best for the future and have no doubt that they are on their way to great things!”


Celebrations were the order of the day when the students completed their first two weeks of training (they voluntarily stayed on for an extra week to complete a combined copper artisan project, which was unveiled on the day). Family and friends gathered at OTTC and a hearty welcome was extended to all by Döbelin.

“I am very proud of these two groups; they showed a wealth of potential. To see what they achieved in two weeks is amazing. Choosing a winner for each group was very difficult; hence, I decided that, apart from the sponsorship winners, OTTC is granting each learner an extra four weeks training at no cost,” says Döbelin. Her announcement was met with huge cheers from the attendees.

“There is a tremendous gap in skills when you look at tradesmen. Youngsters are no longer exposed to the opportunities that different trades offer. These learners have been given a start to be a tradesman; it is a small step, but it is a beginning. I know we are on the right track,” says Döbelin.

Two sponsorships were awarded on the day. This went to the highest achieving candidate of each group. The recipients, Mpumelelo Mahlangu from Katlehong and Derek Oberholster from Springs, were elated. The sponsorship consists of an extra 14 weeks of training, with an estimated value of R96 600.

Photos by Cherry Ellis and OTTC

Click here to read the July 2018 issue of RACA Journal


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