Training: ‘Nothing is impossible if you think positive’

VWSA workers, Macdonald Vumile Maseti and Mbambo Mpupi Stanford, are showing that even though they both left school about 25 years ago with very little education, it is never too late to learn.

Both in their late 50s, with almost 60 years service at VWSA between them, Xolani Tshayana, VWSA’s Numsa education and training representative spoke to them.

Macdonald Vumile Maseti has completed ABET from levels 2 to 4 and recently completed AMIC – the technical training modules that take a worker right up to level 4. In his 27 years at VWSA, Maseti has worked in the Body shop A1 for 20 years, moved to Sub-Assembly, A4 Assembly and currently works in PQ24 Assembly.

With the vast experience that you have, why didn’t you benefit from recognition of prior learning (RPL) in terms of moving up the skills ladder?

My problem is that I was never multi-skilled. In the Body Shop I did the same job for 20 yeas.

Many workers of your generation don’t want this multi-skilling, they view it as a waste of time, what do you say?

The workplace has been democratised in the last 6 years or so. Workers now are enjoying equal opportunities, equal rights and generally working conditions have been improved. It is very disappointing to see workers failing to take advantage of these opportunities.

But I have managed to influence and encourage a few workers including my elder brother and Sokiya – they both received their AMIC certificates.

If a worker like you doesn’t want to attend multi-skilling training – how will you change his mind?

People who are old like myself must be given special treatment. We must be taken away from the lines so that we can focus on training and education on a full time basis.

We have contributed all our lives to this company, we form an integral part of its achievements, so we feel that it’s payback time. This is not too much to ask as there are only a few of us remaining in this company. And there must be an intensive campaign, motivation with incentives and encouragement done by the company and the Union so that these workers can see training and education as the key and a necessary tool towards success and a better paid workplace.

Who motivated you to take up studying?The Deputy President of this country, Jacob Zuma. He never had any formal education, he is one of the most charismatic leaders ever produced by this country and he is proud of his educational background and of being an ABET product. Zuma is my role model. And I was also becoming jealous when I looked at the newly recruited getting their AMIC certificates!

Did you do any self talk before you took this decision? A negative voice was telling me, ‘I can not do it, I am just being silly’, and this negativity nearly robbed me of the confidence to make the right moves when they were necessary. And the positive self-talk on the other hand helped create a sense of belonging, being wanted, accepted and cared for and the desire to succeed.

Was there any time where you thought of dropping out?There was a time when the going got tough, and that’s when I was tempted to give up, but I was resolute.

Did anybody believe that you would succeed?You know in this country there is a ‘pull him down syndrome’. There were too many negative attempts from all angles, some telling me that ‘no you are going to fail’ or ‘no, there is no place for you’ or ‘education and training is only for young people’. Only a few people supported me including my former supervisor {Mr Victor Brown} who encouraged me not to give up.

What advice can you give to your fellow colleagues and the new breed of workers?Nothing is impossible in the long run if you are determined and committed enough to make it happen, but it has to start in your mind. They have to think positive and make the best of the opportunities available, because one will never know what will happen tomorrow, these opportunities might disappear or become more difficult to be accessed by my fellow workers.

Calling all retrenched workers

Numsa is busy investigating whether the Merseta can provide training programmes for retrenched Numsa members.

If you have been retrenched, give your name to your nearest Numsa office. This will help Numsa find out how many workers, what skills you have and don’t have, whether you need ABET training and so on.

Did you encounter any problems with your ABET Teachers?No, not at all they were magnificent, marvellous and they were also patient and understanding, very supportive and encouraging. I want to thank them a lot. They played a positive role towards my success more especially Miss Chinaz Johnson.

What would you like to change with regard to management and shop stewards’ support. I think the line management in relation to training must begin to change. Training must be seen as an investment in workers, not a waste of time. To management, production always comes first, so the support was on and off. One thing which worked for me was to take initiative, sacrifice some of my time towards my achievement.

On the support from the shop steward, you can get support here and there, but they are so pre-occupied with many things like cases, workshops and we didn’t have a shop steward focussing on training issues full-time. Maybe things will change now that you are here, but I think training must be a responsibility of each and every shop steward.

How did you feel when you at last received your AMIC certificate?It was unbelievable. It was a long, slow, gradual process, but I was on top of the world. At last my hard work and dedication was paying dividends. And it also strengthened and rejuvenated my inner self.

Are there any benefits from this achievement?Yes, Amic has brought positive spin offs in my life. Financially I’m better paid than before and my Provident Fund has improved, because I’m putting in some more and I can read and analyse my accounts’ statements correctly now. My attitude towards my job has improved and I’m performing brilliantly at what I’m doing. I can even lease a car!

Do you think that the Amic certificate is enough for you?Definitely Amic is not enough, I need to continue developing myself, but the unfortunate part is that Amic is the ceiling for us here in VW. Beyond Amic there is absoulutely no training I can do. And this is frustrating not only to myself but to all the workers who have Amic certificates. The Amic certificate came as a result of a compromise position between employers and the union. Employers wanted more production, workers wanted more wages. Productivity improvement and profits don’t stop at level 4 it is a continuous process. Payments must also be continuous that’s my wish.

Do you have any regrets?I have so many regrets, but I will mention only a few, such as the opportunity like this coming very late at a time where I’m approaching retirement age.

The second thing that I regret is to see workers young and old who don’t understand that the Union struggled too hard for training and development to be a benefit for every worker in the workplace. Training is not a nice to have kind of a thing but a benefit that must be used by workers for the economic development of the country and the company and in the process workers will be better paid.

Lastly are there any words of wisdom?Global changes are happening so fast and they bring more challenges to both management and workers. As workers we are confronted by these changes and global demands. For us to be able to adapt to these new challenges, we must learn, we must also be able as workers to discontinue oppressing ourselves, because we will never progress in terms of genuine freedom, if we continue oppressing ourselves.

We must stop the inferiority complex, as this prevents us from ever realising the full potential of new found democracy. Let us grab these opportunities with both hands, people must go back to school.

Mbambo Mpupi Stanford is studying ABET Level 4 (Standard 7 English) Communication and ABET level 3 (Standard 6) Numeracy and he has completed the 24 technical credits and 16 core credits. In his 30 years at VWSA he has done time as an operator, in the press shop, as a die handler and a crane driver

How is the experience and knowledge gained assisting you?It is helping me to understand the workplace environment and developments in the world better. I am becoming aware of globalisation and its tendencies.

What are the other benefits of this programme?I can receive job instructions in English, I can read and analyse my pay slip and also understand the information on the notice boards.

What drove you take up this programme?I saw that the company was moving away from labour intensive jobs and introducing technology. For example when the A4 Golf was introduced in 1998, the company decided that only workers with Standard 10 or ABET level 4 could work on that line. Since then it is the same trend with the Polo line, and the A5 line.

It is only Press Shop and A1 CITI Golf which still remain as traditional labour intensive areas. But there is talk of also phasing out the A1 CITI Golf in the near future, currently the A1 CITI Golf is also improving technologically.

What does this mean for workers?Those workers from A1 CITI Golf and those from the press shop who can’t read or write will be faced with retrenchments, there will be no future for them.

What about the ABET incentive scheme of VWSA?I would be happy if the incentive could be paid weekly and form part of my wages according to the number of hours I have attended. To me it’s wrong to wait for 6 months to get my incentive. Payments must not be based on the results whether you pass or not, but must be based on the attendance. If this can happen, it can encourage and increase the number of workers participating in ABET programmes.

How are you coping with the classes after hours?It’s difficult to do them after hours or before shift. It would be better if we could do it during working hours, because of our age and responsibilities. But I will persevere until I finish, because maximum level 4 is what I want before the end of this year. I have come a long way, I won’t give up now.

What about your facilitators?They are very good in understanding that they are dealing with adults, they treat and respect us as their parents. They are supportive, and tolerant. We are satisfied with the ETI/ABET Staff.