Just over two months ago, 100 unemployed local youngsters had no idea what they were going to do with their lives. They had matric with maths and science but no prospects of employment; some had higher qualifications but they, too. were jobless. With more than a quarter of South Africa’s working force unemployed, the future seemed very bleak, especially for those from low- or no-income households – and for most of them, there was little or no hope of ever attaining any kind of meaningful qualification.

On Friday, 12 January, the ECA(SA) changed their lives when the association inducted 100 new construction electrical apprentices – the first intake of apprentices, selected from over 1 800 applicants to undergo free training at the ECA(SA)’s Meadowdale training centre for the next two years. Their training will be funded by the Department of Higher Education (DHET) through the Skills Development Fund (SDF) in an initiative to address the technical skills’ gap in this country. The ECA(SA) has secured employment for all the apprentices, who have been placed with ECA(SA) member employers in Gauteng and Northwest Province, where they will gain practical experience and be mentored for two years.

Free training

This training will not cost the beneficiaries anything. The apprentices receive a monthly stipend; a tool box with a selection of high quality electrician’s tools and instruments; a branded work overall; and free training and support. In addition, extra classes will be held to teach the apprentices about tendering, quantity surveying, contracts and business administration.

At the induction, Stephen Khola, the ECA(SA)’s National Labour Relations and HR Director welcomed the new intake. He went straight to the point, telling them, “This is not about training for the sake of training – this is about producing qualified wiremen.”

He told them that they already knew what they had to do to succeed. “Work hard. You have been given an opportunity – use it well! Be on time, be respectful and don’t have a bad attitude,” he said, joking that he had given them their “first verbal warning”.

Knowledge is power

In his welcome address, the ECA(SA) President, Giel Labuschagne, told the aspirant electricians that he had started his electrical apprenticeship in 1967. “Over the past 50 years I have learnt many things about electricity and about life. Always remember that knowledge is power and you now have the key to that power in your hands. Roll up your sleeves and work hard! Always do your best and make us proud of you! Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Failure not an option

Mfikoe told the apprentices that his passion is about developing people and taking the from where they are to where they could be. “Failure is not an option” he warned.

“During your training, you will be taught business skills outside of your normal training hours because our aim is to produce electricians who would not only be capable of being employed in the industry but who will also be electrical contractors – so you will be the employers in the electrical contracting industry.”


Mfikoe explains that this initiative began early in January 2017, when he submitted an application to DHET to train apprentices at the association’s training centre in Meadowdale. His application was successful and on November 6?, DHET approved the ECA(SA)’s application, allocating funds to the association through the Skills Development Fund to train 200 unemployed youth as apprentices in the building construction electrical trade.


Mfikoe immediately posted this news on the ECA(SA)’s Facebook page and website, inviting applicants with N2 Electrical Heavy Current as a minimum to submit their applications along with the CVs.

In his invitation, Mfikoe says: “The aim of the project is to turn 200 qualifying persons into registered people, in terms of the Electrical Installation Regulations, by 2020. There will be no short cuts. Our respect for this trade is too big for us to do anything other than a perfect job. The trust placed in us by the Department of Higher Education and Training to deliver on this project is something we take so seriously that I, as the National Director of this association, will manage the project closely. When we are done, there will be 200 licenced electricians unleashed into the industry. Beneficiaries of this project will develop capacity to employ people in South Africa”.

Within days, the Facebook post had reached over 4 000 people and had been shared 27 times. More people heard about the initiative when Mfikoe was invited to talk on the Rams Mbote show on Metro FM at the end of November.

Hundreds of applications flooded the ECA(SA)’s offices and, after reviewing more than 1 800 applications, Mfikoe announced the first 50 successful applicants in a Facebook post on 30 December.

25% women

The geographic spread of the beneficiaries is:

  • Brits:20 apprentices (four white and 16 black, largely from the rural villages around Brits).
  • Tshwane and Ekurhuleni: 100 apprentices (20 white and 80 black).
  • Johannesburg: 60 apprentices (50 black).
  • Sedibeng: 20 apprentices.

Mfikoe adds that more than 25% of these beneficiaries will be women of which 49 will be young black women.


“Given its focus and bias towards the marginalised, without totally neglecting members of other communities, this project will contribute towards the transformation agenda of the Republic and add positively to the economic and employment growth and social development action plans,” says Mfikoe.

More info:                   Zinhle Ramashala on +27 (0)11 392 0000














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