Wits, Unilever to pioneer practical work training for engineering students
In the first corporate-academic partnership of its kind, consumer goods manufacturer Unilever South Africa and Wits, have announced a collaborative skills development programme that aims to provide promising engineering students with practical work experience and a premium academic qualification.
As part of the flagship initiative, which was supported by statutory body, the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (Chieta), 30 Wits Engineering students who have completed their second or third year of study would this year be employed full-time at Unilever’s new R1.4-billion Khanyisa plant, on Johannesburg’s East Rand.
The students would form part of the factory operations team for the duration of their year of employment, providing them practical exposure to the production process and an opportunity to develop their technical and problem-solving skills.
To ensure academic continuity, a lecturer would be appointed by Wits, on behalf of Unilever, to supervise and monitor the students for their 12-month employment period, as well as for their remaining years of study at Wits once they had completed their work experience.
The lecturer would ensure students continued to be exposed to academic content and material while working to ensure a seamless transition back into academia in 2017.
Commenting on the programme, which would be rolled out to other Unilever facilities should it prove successful, head of manufacturing for Unilever in South Africa and Southern Africa Sandeep Desai said the company’s over R4-billion investment in local manufacturing capacity would prove worthless if the skills to operate factories were largely absent.