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Mentorship and Apprenticeship

Hi, my name is Mthetheleli Gcumeni and I am PIRB licensed plumber, working for the City of Cape Town as a Superintendent in the Water and Waste Directorate, and today I will briefly talk about the importance, pros and cons, and the Organisational benefits of Mentorship and Apprenticeship.

In recent years we have seen much publicised stance from the government departmental spheres of employment, where Apprenticeships for the Historically Disadvantage people are pushed into the forefront of means to curb the scourge of unemployment in the country, and there has been both positive and negative outcomes for the economy of the country, but how does this affect a small Plumbing enterprise? Let us look into how Apprenticeships and Mentorships have strengthened the industry despite some of the failures by our governmental parastatals.


Apprenticeships in plumbing have a long history. My former mentor, Mr Philander, once told me that he began his apprenticeship in 1980, the year I was born, and passed his Trade test in Olifantsfontein when I was age 5. In those days it took 5 years to undergo the whole process, and today it is a little bit different because we have accelerated the process in order to run along with the pace of things in a more technologically advanced era.

The industrial technological advancements make it fundamental that every plumbing enterprise or organisation should capacitate its workforce with Skills that will add value to the individual and the company, and it is primarily for this reason that we have apprenticeships at the forefront of skills development and employment opportunities, however the government is not doing enough to fund private companies, especially the smaller enterprises, in order to play a part in upskilling their workforce. Private small companies have to do it on their own. The government will only throw a bone when they need some of their own prospects to be in-service trained by private companies, and even then, it’s the bigger dogs who get to eat.

Be that as it may, we all know the value that is added to the company when we have skilled individuals in our workforce and every company should make that an aspect of their vision and mission, because if we don’t we risk the industry’s credibility from the people we serve, our clients.

Below are some of the things a plumbing enterprise can do to upskill its workforce through apprenticeships.

    • Identify a college where individuals with plumbing experience can enrol for 3 months study before doing a Trade test, colleges like Northlink do offer such opportunities, but strictly for those already doing plumbing work for a company willing to pay for them to obtain a Plumber Trade Certificate.
    • Choose one or two individuals who have been working for the organisation longer than two years, and they should have the necessary prerequisite which would qualify them to be enrolled in addition to the potential to pass the Trade test. Therefore you need to choose motivated individuals.
    • The company needs to be willing to pay for the costs and promote the individuals to higher positions once they pass, otherwise it would be wasteful expenditure once that individual leaves the company, because no one wants to remain in the same position when they have just qualified for a higher one.

Those are just three things, amongst others, to consider doing in order to add value to the enterprise with Qualified Artisans. The enterprise will reap the rewards, but even with that in place, the company needs seniors or management to positively guide, motivate and effectively drive these individuals to be successful in every task in order for the company to efficiently and effectively achieve its mission. This is where my next point of Mentorship comes in.


This is mainly about the guidance that is provided by a mentor, in my case it was Mr Philander, but in any company it could be any experienced person and the enterprise has to choose that person or the person can even volunteer to have apprentices for a certain period of time during which he or she would impart their knowledge and experience as a mentor, and this is one of the most honourable things to do in any field or industry.

During this time of mentorship both the mentor and the apprentice must built a good working relationship where the junior can thrive under the guidance of the senior, and as much as the junior may have been exposed to new technological advances in his College study, he has to respect the authority of the senior who is a well of immense experience in the business aspect as well as having acquired the experimental expertise in the industry.

In this relationship a mentor has to be someone that is willing to listen and explore new ways of doing things, and this allows him or her to be relatable to the young apprentices to whom he or she is giving guidance, furthermore, this cultivates a culture of positive team building in the work environment and that spirit becomes evident in the efficiency and effectiveness of executing tasks out there in the field.

Mentorship is all about skill transference and long lasting relationships beyond the work are built during this time and one day the apprentice will become someone else’s mentor, and so it continues. Unfortunately, I have not been able to meet Mr Philander in 5 years now, but I know that if he were to see where I am now in terms of experience and position at work, he’d be very proud. I myself intend to be a mentor to someone else in the near future and assist in bringing about a positive change in other lives and add more value to the success of our Organisation.

Thank you.

Written by competition winner Mthetheleli Gcumeni (8802/14)

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