“It is always a pleasure to help people who are willing to help themselves.” Tewis van der Ryst, owner of the wellknown Drotsky agricultural equipment manufacturer, once again realised this in 2019 when he offered the opportunity to 26 student welders and boilermakers of the Hamba Nathi Technical Training Centre in Alberton to complete their practical courses in his factory.

Since then they take in between 30 and 40 students per year from different training centres like Ekurhuleni West and Ekurhuleni East campus.

In the past Drotsky has trained learner welders in the Alrode area, but the new dispensation required that the firm had to be accredited first so that it could be registered as an employment entity. The firm is now recognised by the SETAS as an approved provider of on-the-job training. “I am ready to contribute to skills training for South Africans and this initiative came about as an excellent opportunity,” says Tewis.

The welders and boiler-makers must complete their three months’ theoretical training at Hamba Nathi and then undergoing their nine months’ practical training in the Drotsky factory. The contract negotiated by Drotsky will run for three years, which means that it will include three cycles. Students had to pass Science and Maths and must be fluent in English for selection by Hamba Nathi.

“For us it is an important plus factor as I can see that, when students are enrolled here with a solid academic background, it is so much easier for them to grasp the training principles. They can read a plan proficiently and then proceed on their own with a project,” says Nellie, Tewis’s wife and also Drotsky’s administrative controller.

“They also show immediately that they will make headway in their careers and in the industry.”

As a result of the deteriorating local labour situation there is a tendency among South African manufacturers to rather have spares and components manufactured in countries like China and India and then only assemble their products locally. Drotsky, however, is still one of the very few remaining South African entrepreneurs that manufacture all their equipment from scratch and assemble the product in their own factory. That is why Drotsky is so popular with institutions such as Hamba Nathi to place their people for skills training.

The student group from Hamba Nathi in 2019 gained excellent and priceless experience in the Drotsky factory.

This project also has spinoffs for Drotsky as they can shape promising students to fit in with their unique culture with a view to permanent appointment. When students start training at Drotsky, each of them is assigned to a staff member for his/her initial training. Thereafter they are rotated between work stations to allow them to obtain further experience in all the departments and with all the machinery. As soon as a student shows that he/ she can work independently, the student is moved to the production line.

“This is rare in our industry, but it has far-reaching benefits for the student and his/her development and personal growth,” says Tewis.

“Every student also has to work in the office for a week to learn the basics of what the administration of a factory demands.”

Between all this, students have to attend lectures where workshop discipline is taught, and initiative and personal inventiveness emphasised to assist students in thinking like entrepreneurs.

“Students offer unique talents but in the end many of them will leave here and then find it hard to be employed. It is a fact that employment opportunities are scarce in South Africa. Our economy is at a low point. They will have to fend for themselves and we endeavour to prepare them for that eventuality,” says Tewis.

To stimulate inventive thinking, Drotsky arranges regular competitions where a student is given a project to construct from beginning to end. They are allowed to ask as many questions as they like, but each one has to complete the project by himself/ herself.

One of 2019’s students, Lindokuhle Mbonani, was given a permanent job at Drotsky. She completed her “trade test” for boilermaking and is busy with her electrical trade test. “She works on our Laser machine,” Nellie said.

Contact Francesco van Wyk at 083-267-3286 or 011-864-1601 or visit the website at www.drotsky.co.za