Graduation for HVAC learnership class of 2021

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) company, Johnson Controls, concluded its smart building technology Graduation Class of 2021. The learnership programme aims to address the dearth of skills in the local HVAC market.

The programme was launched last year with a focus on developing human capacity and empowerment through the development of technical skills in South Africa. Last year, Johnson Controls enrolled 25 learners in the inaugural programme.

The Learnership provides young people from underprivileged communities an opportunity to gain HVAC skills, which in turn increases the skills pool and promotes diversity within the industry. The initiative is driven by Archie Makatini, (Regional General Manager) for the sub-Saharan Africa region, in partnership with Lynn Millin (Makatini’s HR partner). The programme focuses on skills development that enables learners to build a foundation to pursue careers in the HVAC industry.

Makatini and Millin both proudly noted that last year’s learnership yielded a 100% pass rate, with four candidates being subsequently placed in permanent positions at Johnson Controls throughout the country. The remainder are currently receiving additional training as part of a robust job rotation scheme.

Millin notably asserts that this year the company is onboarding a further 23 skilled learners from previously disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds who either have had no previous work experience or opportunities for advanced studies.

Some of the learners are technical college graduates, while some have been referred to by managers within the Johnson Controls group. The majority of these learners will complete apprenticeships with the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Academy (ACRA), in Kempton Park, as part of the curriculum.

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HVAC learnership curriculum goes beyond the classroom

Once they have completed the programme, Makatini says the learners will be equipped to uplift themselves by being better positioned for employment in the HVAC industry. This also has the wider benefit of uplifting their families and communities.

The curriculum also includes advanced modules that focus on oral communication; interpretation of information from text; analysis of shape and dimensional space; mathematical investigation and monitoring of financial aspects; project initiation and the management thereof; administration processes and project documentation management to mention a few areas.

The programme comprises a theoretical and practical component where each learner is assigned a coach and mentor for the duration of the training. The company believes in effective mentorship programmes that foster to connect people, increase knowledge and build skills for future personal goals and milestones. In the last month of the learnership programme, the learners receive certification.  

“Additionally, the learnership has been redesigned this year to include a wider spectrum of skills, with a greater focus on Technical Sales. This is not only in line with supporting the business and its needs, but it’s instrumental as well in providing Sales Acumen growth opportunities for the learners,” says Makatini.

“We wanted to align the curriculum with skills requirements of the company, as the learners will be brought into the business to ensure that we have an adequate talent pool to draw from. Essentially, it’s a win-win situation,” he explained.

Makatini also alluded to the fact that there are plans to feed the local learnership programme into Johnson Controls’ International Sales Academy, where permanently employed staff, including graduates of the learnership programme that have been employed by the company, can further develop their skills, taking them to the next level of leadership experience within the HVAC industry.

“The unemployment levels among our youth are currently too high. We would like to see the rest of the HVAC industry also coming to the party and support the much-needed drive for human capacity development – It takes a village to raise a child (African proverb). Initiatives such as this can set up young people for a lifetime of success,” says Makatini.

“Learnership and internship programmes must be part of a wider organisational strategy to create a high-performance culture, where talent development drives real social impact. We are very proud of Johnson Controls for giving our learners a chance to ‘spread their wings’ through proper mentorship and guidance.”