By Benjamin Brits
At the most recent graduation ceremony, which is a proud tradition at the training centre, it was another full house for the proud students who received their diplomas.
Held at the Open Trade Training Centre (OTTC) in Gauteng, at the end of November 2021, the graduating group was full of energy and in particular, five ladies were celebrated – two of whom obtained 100% pass marks.
Centre founder and owner, Isolde Dobelin, was first to address the graduates and highlighted some of her fond memories of how the training centre came about after herself and her late husband, Peter, came to South Africa. She further spoke about the opportunities in Skills City Africa (which is a step closer to becoming a reality with every passing month). The concept of the city is one where individuals can learn trade skills and be a part of a community – even when employment is as scarce as it is today, people could still have a place to work in exchange for living. This concept is something Dobelin experienced first-hand in Germany. OTTC Skills City Africa will aim to address trades in electrical, refrigeration and plumbing.
Dobelin also offered the graduates many examples of ‘making things work’ as she had experienced over her life and what had been achieved, even though she was ‘only a woman’ who had to make a way forward at the time in a very male-dominated environment. She offered a candid example of her first job locally and her inability to speak English. However, with the support of her husband and peers has been able to do great things for the sector, which is also well appreciated.
Dobelin offered her congratulations and further guidance to the graduates reminding them of some of the principles her late husband applied, “Don’t take shortcuts in life because they don’t work. Reading books and using Google and social media which the young people of today like so much doesn’t give you real experience. Trades people learn by using their hands and doing! A lot of students in this field also don’t get to be challenged to think for themselves, and rather rely on robots, calculators, or computers when in fact, everyone is born with the best computer inside their head – we just have to learn how to use it. Applying our minds makes it simple to understand measurements and calculations that you need in a trade, or, to come up with the best design ideas.”
Dobelin continued and noted a special thanks to all industry suppliers who have donated of their products, services, and time to be able to continue to offer hands-on training on well looked after and safe plants for many years. OTTC celebrates their 30th anniversary in 2022. The training centre’s ammonia plant, for example, is already 20 years old, and through continued support from the industry is still adding to the student experience.
Technical director Anamarie Lyn Penniston Sibiya next addressed the graduates noting that each time a graduation group is honoured in this way, it is indeed a very special occasion for the training centre because each person who receives a diploma is essentially uplifted through knowledge.
“One thing no one can take away from you is the knowledge you have gained, and with knowledge it is your duty to be the best version of yourself that you can be. No one else is going to do that for you. One thing we all need to remember is that we don’t just get born and die one day. We are born to live out our purpose and there is something special inside each and every person. We need to find this out as we grow and progress over the course of our careers, and everyone has the same opportunity to make a difference – be it for your family or your community. Yes, life is tough, bad things happen, but when you have knowledge, you have opportunity. Refrigeration is all around us, electrical units are all around us and even if you have a full-time job, you have time on the weekends or after hours and using your skills to fix fridges in your community pays a very good rate, as an example. This you can use to place yourself in a better situation. You have to take initiative on your own to create success for yourself,” Penniston Sibiya said.
She then addressed the ladies in particular, saying, “Graduations are always special but for me personally as a woman I am proud to see that many more women are coming into the sector. Each time we take in groups the ratio is improving and even though women are continually having to prove themselves, this group is a perfect example that women can do this work. The ladies have outdone the men here. Women have traditionally had a more nurturing role, but as the world changes, the outcome here proves that women can really do anything. Their role is not to ‘belong in the kitchen’ or ‘only do reception and admin work’. Women can wear overalls, women can partake in trades, women can work on plants with tools and spanners”, she expressed, to the cheer and support of the men in the group. “Ladies you always just need to keep in the back of your mind that you are also only as good as your last performance and mistakes are what people remember.”
Penniston Sibiya then turned her attention to remind the learners about the importance of safety and that as graduates, are only at the start of their journey and actually know very little. The plants they have worked on during training would be different to what are out in the real world and silly mistakes could have dire consequences, even death. This is the same for even those that are experienced and have completed their trade test. Here applying what students have learned will be critical however if at any time they were unsure, they should rather ask for advice than make a mistake, no matter what time of the day or night it is. There is never a silly question, and safety is always the priority she emphasised as each site and its components will be different.
In conclusion, Penniston Sibiya congratulated students for their achievements and commented, “Although you all thought the lecturers were hard on you and this training was tough, as I said to you, the day that you graduate we will be on the best terms because now you know the reasons why we push and insist things are done right. These qualifications and what is involved is serious work and therefore everyone needs to be serious where real dangers exist.”
The graduates were then invited to consider other courses on offer at the centre to grow their knowledge from simple use of hand tools all the way through to plant design and business management. They were then presented with their diplomas with the assistance of German refrigeration masters and lecturers Kurt Johannsen and Peter Hoetmer.
The event concluded in a frenzy of photos for the exited graduates and celebratory meal and refreshments.