South Africa is plagued by a high level of unemployment, but it’s the youth unemployment rate of an estimated 46.5% or 4.9 million young people that’s most concerning. Accordingly, Continental Tyre South Africa (CTSA) offers a wide range of student talent pool programmes to provide a wide range of learnership and skills development opportunities for unemployed youth, as well as young graduates starting at the company.
“The high level of youth unemployment in South Africa is extremely worrying, as it perpetuates the cycle of poverty, entrenches inequality, places immense strain on the country’s social support programmes and resources, and curtails economic development and growth,” says Genevieve Naidoo, Director: Human Relations at Continental Tyre South Africa. “What makes the problem even more challenging is that we have a serious skills shortage in the manufacturing sector, so although there are job opportunities out there, finding suitably qualified people to fill these positions is extremely difficult. “While these are major challenges for the country, they are not insurmountable and industry has an important role to play in providing skills development opportunities for the youth,” Naidoo says. “We have to empower our young people with the necessary learning and experiential training that will give them marketable skills to access job opportunities. This will empower them with the tools to break the cycle of poverty and build a brighter future as economically active members of the community and our future leaders.”
CTSA has a well-established and extensive range of youth development initiatives aimed at tackling these issues. The company prides itself on offering numerous student talent pool programmes for unemployed youth namely, but not limited to, apprenticeships, in-service trainees, Graduate in Training, Youth Employment Service (YES) Learnership, trainee pools, Disability Learnership and International Development opportunities. These programmes allow young adults to acquire knowledge and skills in all facets of manufacturing, enabling them to gain insights into the entire value chain of the organisation. In addition, CTSA offers development in soft skills and business acumen to not only increase the likelihood of employability, but also as a means of value-add to their lifelong journey and promotion of employee wellness.
CTSA and its retail division, BestDrive, offer a Learnership Programme that was launched in 2019 in collaboration with the SOS Children’s Village House of Youth in Gqeberha. Through merSETA – the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Authority – the programme is built around the learners completing a National Certificate in Automotive Repair and Maintenance with a focus on Tyre Fitment (NQF Level 2). The learners are given insight into the tyre manufacturing process, followed by classroom and practical training at BestDrive retail fitment centres. “As a leading tyre manufacturer, our focus is naturally on Manufacturing Technology which encompasses the vast array of engineering fields and technical skills involved in tyre production,” Naidoo says. “The pace of technological advancement and innovation is accelerating exponentially, and we are constantly adapting our business to Industry 4.0. Accordingly, our skills development and training programmes are continuously evolving to enable a smooth transition as we transform our business to this era of digital and smart manufacturing.”
There are various opportunities where young professionals are exposed or obtain access to mentorship opportunities, which are essential for professional and personal growth. All graduate and apprenticeship programme young professionals are assigned a mentor once they are hired. “At CTSA we believe mentorship is the foundation for success, and through mentorship opportunities our employees are exposed to various opportunities to lead projects and tasks,” Naidoo explains. “Furthermore, all employees that are eligible for mentorship can access the opportunity to be mentored via our formal mentorship programme.” In addition, CTSA offers the Leading Self Programme which is targeted towards new employees or young professionals that demonstrate leadership potential. The programme focuses on understanding oneself and your leadership style to succeed as a leader. CTSA collaborates with tertiary institutions and technical colleges to share information about its student talent pool programmes. It also consults with these institutions when embarking on recruitment activities to fill various positions within the company and its various graduate, trainee and apprenticeship programmes.
Inspiring success stories
Onele Dyonase, currently a Senior Controller at CTSA, joined the company in 2016 as a Finance graduate. Shortly thereafter she was absorbed into a financial clerk role and expressed a desire to join Continental’s eXplore Controlling Graduate Programme. She was selected for the programme and completed her first international rotation between 2017 and 2019. During a second international assignment at the Continental Tire Sumter plant in the United States from 2020 to 2022, she accepted an international role in various Controlling roles and was exposed to leadership responsibility. Dyonase completed her international assignment and returned to the Gqeberha plant in 2023 to accept a Senior Controller role, and she continues to inspire youth to study finance and accountancy by sharing her journey at tertiary institutions. “Working for an international company like Continental has enabled me to travel the world and work in diverse environments, which allowed me to expand my technical knowledge in manufacturing controlling and the tyre business,” Dyonase says. “It has also accelerated my personal growth, as I believe there’s no better way to get to know yourself than in a foreign land. “I have been able to experience one of our company values, ‘For One Another’, through great leaders that I have met along the way that are always there when I need an ear. I am grateful for the worldwide social capital I have been able to tap into, whether it’s to benchmark a process, get a different opinion or just a random catch-up to check on one another, because, as our CEO says, the tyre business is a people business,” Dyonase adds.
Another graduate with a great story is Buhle Ntsalaze, who joined CTSA in 2016 in the Manufacturing and Engineering department. In 2016 he was selected for Continental’s global eXplore Manufacturing and Engineering Programme – a 12-month international development opportunity which comprised a six-month home plant stay at Continental Tyre SA’s Gqeberha plant, followed by a six-month international assignment in Germany. Ntsalaze returned from his overseas stint in 2017 and was appointed as a Process Engineer. He was promoted to Head of Department (HOD) for Process Engineering at CTSA in 2021. “Continental has provided me with great opportunities,” Ntsalaze says. “In 2017 the eXplore Programme represented a year full of firsts, as I became the first person in my family to travel abroad, it was my first experience working with and interacting with professionals on a global scale, and it was my first time driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. This gave me the platform to inspire and encourage those in my family, social circle and myself to aim for the impossible.” More recently, Ntsalaze says 2021 and 2022 presented new challenges and opportunities for career growth. “We were working in a virtual global pandemic with three different time zones, 12 hours apart which tested our resourcefulness and communication with colleagues around the world. I was also promoted to Head of Department for Process Engineering in 2021, and I was selected for the EVOLVE programme last year, so my responsibilities have increased significantly, but I appreciate the confidence that Continental has shown in me while investing in my professional development and growth.” EVOLVE is a separate programme for experienced Continental employees, which is focused on Production, Manufacturing and Engineering colleagues to develop soft skills and networking, and provides opportunities to stretch development on challenging local and global project assignments. “Continental also gave me other opportunities to experience and help solve problems affecting our sister plants around the world, thereby establishing myself as a global citizen,” Ntsalaze adds. “This empowered me to step out of my comfort zone and ‘small town’ mentality, learning to trust my capabilities and never to underestimate the power of diversity, as we are stronger together! “I have been enriched with many great memories, and have been challenged to be better in many aspects of my personal and professional life,” he says.
“With all of these individual wins and successes, the responsibility of lifting as I rise has never been clearer.” Continental Tyre South Africa is a member of the SATMC, promoting road safety for all South Africans.