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Last year two entrepreneurs – Sean Jones and Mandisa Nyathikazi invested in excess of R20 million in buying and refurbishing the Ikaya Fundisa Techniskills Academy (IFT Academy) in Roodepoort after receiving a bank loan from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
The duo now plan to open satellite training centres in various regions in SA and sub Saharan Africa, with expansion plans expected to cost around R40 million during the next two to three years.
IFT Academy is focused on training artisans in a wide range of engineering-focused skills, including fitters and turners, tool jig and dye makers, electricians, millwrights, welders, boilermakers, sheet metal workers, petrol and diesel mechanics, tractor mechanics, forklift mechanics, auto electricians and earth moving equipment mechanics.
The first 12 months were spent upgrading facilities and injecting money into capital equipment.
Majority owned by Nyathikazi, the company is now planning an aggressive expansion drive to open up a myriad of satellite training centres – with the first already opened at Crown mines.
The company, a BEE level 3 contributor and a Category A beneficiary, is regarded as one of only a handful of privately owned training institutions focusing on training artisans – including previously disadvantaged individuals – in the entire engineering training spectrum.
Said Jones: “The loan from IDC allowed us to kick-start our dream and enabled us to move onto our second phase, which saw us open a training centre at Crown Mines, which is housed on the premises of Tool Quip and Allied. This facility has the capacity to train up to 50 artisans at any point in time.
Commenting further, Nyathikazi said: “We are now looking at opening facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Western Cape and in Southern Africa – starting in Zambia, where we already have an established client, John Deere and other partners. These training centres,” she said, ‘will be 100% owned by the IFT Academy.”
The four hectare academy in Roodepoort currently trains up to 280 artisans at “any given time” and boasts accommodation for 190 learners. Facilities include a fully-equipped canteen, gym and general sporting activities.
She said the expansion plans will be funded from cash and borrowings, adding that the company is still “in ongoing talks with IDC – who we view as our partner of choice”.
“We will also certainly be expanding further into Southern Africa, but our original goal will be Zambia as our current clients are already pushing us to set up training facilities there.
“There is a global shortage of technical skills and the effects of the current recession will just serve to create a blimp on the radar screen. We are looking at a massive skills shortage going forward. It is a major problem.”
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