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Black-owned autobody repair shops are being helped into the mainstream of the industry through an initiative called Adopt A Panel Shop. It looks at mentorship and training.
NASCENT black-owned panel beating shops are receiving training and mentorship to help them join the mainstream auto-repair industry.


Training is providedTraining is providedThe Adopt A Panel Shop campaign, an initiative of insurer and financial and risk services provider Alexander Forbes, has been running since 2006 countrywide; a specific Johannesburg leg of the programme will open on 8 June in Wynberg.

The aim of the initiative is to transform and expand the South African autobody repair industry.

Zombodze Panelbeaters in Soweto was the first panel shop to benefit from the campaign. It was helped to move from an informal space to an industrial site at Aeroton, in the southeast of the metro. It also received new tools and equipment.

Since then, about six more black-owned automotive businesses in other parts of South Africa have had their premises and equipment upgraded to align with industry standards and accreditation. These outlets perform a cross-section of repairs for the Department of Correctional Services, the South African Police Service and insurance companies, as well as for uninsured private individuals or businesses.

Adopt A Panel Shop is about helping black enterprises to access the mainstream corporate autobody repair industry, from which they were previously excluded, notes Errol Masinga, an enterprise development co-ordinator at Alexander Forbes.

“The initiative aims to formalise and support these businesses, enabling them to work from well-equipped and suitable premises, acquire skills and operate to industry standards.”

Training and mentorship
Masinga says the company chose to support such an initiative because most panel shops are grappling with training and mentorship challenges. “To assist them meet these challenges, Alexander Forbes formed a partnership with Motor Body Repairers Stakeholders to provide a training and mentorship programme designed to develop technical skills and business management capacity.”

He explains that the initiative aims to facilitate the development of black-owned autobody repairers through supporting infrastructure and skills development, to create an enabling environment for accessing mainstream insurance opportunities and sustaining the growth of their businesses.

The initiative also promotes efficiency through encouraging quality workmanship, ensuring that all aspects of the panel shops are properly managed, intensifying the technical skills of panel shop staff, particularly in body and paint work, providing systems and equipment upgrades where required and offering onsite training and technical support.

“We believe that our commitment to and participation in transformation will contribute towards the creation of a vibrant economy benefiting our staff, clients, shareholders and the communities in which we operate,” says Edward Kieswetter, Alexander Forbes’ group chief executive.

Through the initiative, the company also oversees ongoing body shop audits along with inventory planning and shop maintenance. Training and mentorship is conducted by BASF, RSB Group, Duncan Nel and Associates, East Rand Motor Lab and the Bulldog Abrasives Training Centre.

The programme is implemented in partnership with the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National African Association for Automobile Service Providers, the Retail Motor Industry Organisation, the South African Motor Body Repairers Association and Umsobomvu Youth Fund.

When evaluating beneficiaries, Alexander Forbes considers premises, operational background of the owners, registration with Cipro, businesses must be black South African-owned and the quality of work and annual financial statements, if available.

The company partners with auto industry consultancy Sewells to ensure the beneficiaries improve their management, financial and human resources skills. Technical skills are acquired from the suppliers of the operational equipment.

The initiative began when Gari Dombo, the head of motor and household insurance at Alexander Forbes Risk and Insurance Services, was approached by the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Joburg leg of the project will be launched on Wednesday, 8 June in Wynberg, in the northeast of Joburg. Training and mentorship will now benefit more panelbeaters in the city.

Masinga says Adopt a Panel Shop is structured as a grant rather than a loan.

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