The first group of students who were enrolled in the Whisper Boat Building Academy (WBBA), the Cape Town Boatbuilding and Technology Initiative (CTBI) and Plastics|SA pilot project to equip deaf students with the skills to work with composites and the art of boat building, received their certificates of competence in lamination at a graduation ceremony held in their honour last week.
According to Vanessa Davidson, Skills Development Facilitator for the Cape Town Boatbuilding and Technology Initiative (CTBi), this is the first time that accredited vocational training in boat building has been offered to deaf students.
Too many unemployed South Africans
“40 % of young South Africans aged between 16 and 25 years are unemployed and do not go to school. Disabled people have an even bigger problem and face even greater obstacles as there are not many opportunities or job facilities that cater for their specific needs”, Vanessa says. “Thanks to grants offered by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Education and Training Authority (merSETA), which paid for their training, these students learned valuable skills over the past six months that will help them become active and contributing members of our nation’s workforce”, she says.
This sentiment was echoed by Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics|SA – the umbrella organization for the local plastics industry and leading provider of education and training services in the plastics and related sectors. “There is a shortage of skilled labour in the fibreglass industry and the deaf students who manage to successfully complete this six month training period, can offer a welcome relief to this scarcity”, he said.
“Although this has been a steep learning curve for everybody involved in this project, it has also been very rewarding. We have reached important milestones with this partnership, such as having moved to our new and centrally located premises in Epping and having created new, basic sign language signs for concepts and terminologies used in our industry every day”, said Mike Harvey of the Whisper Boat Building Academy – a non-profit organization that has been teaching deaf students from disadvantaged communities the art of boat building in Khayelitsha since 2004. “Although the learning process is ongoing, these graduated students are now in the ideal position to be employed as apprentices”, he said.
deaf students graduate
One of the students who graduated this past week was Dirk Smit – a welder by profession who suffered serious injuries during an explosion ten years ago, leaving him blind in one eye and injured in one leg, in addition to being deaf. “I am very happy and pleased with what I had learned this past six months”, Smit says. “It was the first time I have worked with laminates, but I was able to apply my past knowledge and experience in boiler making and I am thankful for the opportunity to again work with my hands and feel the pride of seeing a job well done”.
According to coordinators of the project, the next 6 month training period for deaf students will commence in February 2012. “We have already received various applications, but interested students are still welcome to apply before the deadline expires on the 15th of January 2012”, they say. The opportunity is open to any student (male or female) who is 18 years or older, deaf or hearing impaired, but able to speak sign language. Successful candidates must have a valid South African identity document, be willing to learn, enjoy working with their hands and be willing to commit themselves fulltime for studying over the next six months.
Growing in size and volume
“We are hoping to grow this training initiative both in the number of students who graduate and the number of businesses who partner with us. We are therefore calling on local businesses to help us provide these students with practical hands-on experience in a variety of fields in the plastics industry, ranging from working as laminators for boat builders, to swimming pool constructors, canopy constructors and other composite fields”.
The deadline for applications is 15 January 2012.