The Mercedes-Benz Learning Academy (MBLA) was established by Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) in 1981, and this year marks its 41st anniversary. Since its inception four decades ago, the MBSA’s MBLA has provided excellent education to the Eastern Cape, resulting in the certification of tens of thousands of highly skilled artisans. The MBSA’s strategic goal of “training the best to build the best” is being met in part because the MBLA plays a pivotal role as a strategic service provider in the MBSA’s comprehensive approach to promoting high-quality education and technical skills training.
After four decades, the Learning Academy is still the leader and primary source of technical employees for the Mercedes-Benz East London plant, and it helps combat the region’s persistently high youth unemployment. In addition, the MBLA has maintained its capacity to provide high-quality artisan, shopfloor, and advanced technology training to local business, government, and private students.
The CEO of Mercedes-South Africa and Executive Director of Manufacturing, Andreas Brand, remarked on the occasion of the MBLA’s 41st anniversary by saying, “At Mercedes-Benz South Africa, we believe that our contribution is not only in the excellent vehicles we build but also in the impact we make on the automotive supply chain in the region and its people.” The last four decades have given us plenty to celebrate. For 41 years, the Mercedes-Benz Learning Academy has been supporting the competitiveness of our East London manufacturing plant as well as the skills development and educational needs of the youth of the Eastern Cape. Today, the Learning Academy supports our business model by ensuring a solid pipeline of skills whilst addressing youth unemployment and underdevelopment.
One of the first fully integrated multi-racial institutions in South Africa’s automotive industry, the MBLA was founded in 1981 under the name MBSA Technical Training Centre. The Centre played a crucial role in providing opportunities to people who might not have had access to technical training otherwise, and in doing so, it ensured a steady supply of skilled workers for the Mercedes-Benz East London factory.
In 2016, MBSA unveiled the cutting-edge MBLA after forming a public-private partnership with the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund and investing R130 million. It is remarkable that the MBSA Technical Training Centre has been transformed into a full-fledged Learning Academy. The combined funding not only allowed for the building’s expansion but also made room for more training programs and cutting-edge equipment for automotive industry newcomers and their suppliers.
The MBLA recently celebrated the launch of a new Reference Cell to aid training and development in advance of the next-generation C-Class. The Reference Cell, a brand-new robot set to go live in the year 2019, is designed to give students and professionals access to cutting-edge technical education in a realistic, real-world testing setting. This includes training in Robotics, Metal Joining Technologies Automation, and Advanced Vehicle Technologies.
As part of its commitment to becoming a learning organization, the MBLA is proud to have partnered with industry-leading companies from around the world to provide its staff and customers with formalized, industry-recognized education and development in factory and industrial automation. The MBLA is the site of training and certification exams for many different kinds of engineering students from the Eastern Cape.
New occupational qualifications and various trade tests are developed and implemented by the Learning Academy in close collaboration with government bodies like the National Artisan Moderation Board (NAMB), the Manufacturing, Engineering, and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MERSETA), and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). The Academy is able to serve as a multi-purpose organization because it is an approved service provider for the East Cape Automotive Industry Forum (ECAIF) Project.
The Academy takes great pride in the fact that a remarkably high percentage of its graduates find fulfilling careers in the automotive industry. The MBLA has an impressive absorption rate of nearly 100%, with many graduates being immediately integrated into the talent pipeline at the MBSA manufacturing plant. Suppliers in the East London Industrial Development Zone are among the other target audiences for the automotive industry’s training programs.
“With the automotive industry currently being reshaped with the onset of new electric vehicles, MBSA is keeping pace in this regard.” Automotive technology training has been expanded to include additional training on high-voltage vehicles as well as advanced product technologies. As part of our sustainability objectives, our plant has manufactured hybrid electric vehicles since 2016, and upskilling our workforce to manufacture these vehicles has been a key focus at the MBLA”.
“With a firm focus on future technologies, the MBLA has continued to advance its digital transformation journey by offering digitalized and blended e-learning to apprentices, plant employees, and industry partners via a range of offerings and facilities, including virtual platforms. “Our vision for the future of the MBLA is that it continues to provide support to MBSA in producing premium luxury vehicles using the best talent out of Africa and the world,” concluded Brand.