Polytech Africa is a specialist in engineering consulting services, as well as industrial automation training and education for the petrochemical, mining and metalworking industries. The Level 4 B-BBEE accredited company launched its Mechatronics Academy in 2019, under the auspices of the company’s education division, to offer specialised training and courses at its state-of-the-art training facility in Johannesburg.
Mechatronics: Essential to 4IR
As a marriage of mechanics and electronics, mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering that combines robotics, electronics, different engineering disciplines, and telecommunications. It’s been recognised as a key discipline in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and practitioners are increasingly in demand, explains Astrid Straussner, founding director of Polytech Africa. “Our Academy graduates leave our programmes with both practical skills as well as theoretical knowledge, which puts them at the cutting edge of their field,” she adds.
From an initial intake of just eight students in 2020, the Academy now boasts seven lecturers and 20 students, most of whom hold full bursaries and were previously unemployed. Applicants undergo an extensive evaluation. Regardless of their financial status, only candidates who meet the learnership’s basic requirements and demonstrate the required skills, abilities and commitment, are accepted as learners.
Polytech Africa’s mechatronics learnership programme starts on an NQF2 and progresses to an NQF5 QCTO qualification, however Straussner is pursuing QCTO opportunities for NQF8 accreditation for the Academy.
At NQF2 level, learners gain knowledge and practical skills in the essential aspects of precision mechanical engineering, electronics and computer design systems which are used to control and automate mechanical products with electrical signals. Learners are required to work part-time for an employer in a related field in order to build their practical capabilities and experience. “All our lectures have a blended learning approach: theory, workshops/simulation and Work Integrated Learning (WIL). Our students must complete a six-month internship in their final year,” concludes Straussner.
The Academy invites engineering and automation companies to sponsor the learnerships, enabling Polytech Africa to educate learners who might otherwise not have access to a programme of this nature. In turn, this model gives sponsoring automation or engineering brands and companies the opportunity to partner with Polytech Africa and to present learners with practical product training during the programme.