New career path for JHB learners opens up at Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy


Tumelo Dichabe, Richard Mphofu

Gearhouse’s Kentse Mpahlwa Academy is one of only a few accredited training centres offering a free-of-charge course in Live Event Technical Services to South African youngsters from all walks of life. The initial rigorous interview process reduces hundreds of applicants to an annual intake of around 45 learners each year, who on graduation are fed back into the industry and go on to work in a wide range of fields across the sector.

The course duration is one year, after which the Learners graduate as work-ready industry entrants with a good foundation over all disciplines. Exceptional learners, who show interest in a particular field, may complete a second-year specialisation as well. Two such students in the Johannesburg Branch this year, Richard Mphofu and Tumelo Dichabe applied for Project Management as their field of interest for work-integrated learning in second year and were accepted.

“Our Cape Town facility have had success in running this for 2 years already, but this is the first time we have opened up this avenue in JHB” explains Training Manager, Josef van Schalkwyk. “Project Manager Team Leader, Kenneth Mkefa assigned each student to a seasoned Gearhouse Project Manager for a job-shadowing experience on a specific show. Here they were taken through the whole process of planning, on-site delivery and close out/job report, as a precursor to taking on the responsibilities full-time for 2019.

Project Manager, Lefa Tsiane, worked with Tumelo on a product launch for a well-known brand.

“He showed a lot of interest” said Lefa. “This job was a pretty busy one, so I was able to assign a few key tasks for him to do (under my supervision, of course), like taking care of all the health and safety documentation, making sure that all the crew, stage hands and the crew bosses completed the necessary paperwork. He also got a real taste of the hours and the responsibilities required of a professional PM. He is doing well and just needs to realise that he can trust his own abilities and once he has developed that self-confidence, he will be away.”

Project Manager, Leslie Wahl started Richard’s week off at the projects table in the office before starting on a conference at Sandton Convention Centre. “This one wasn’t a very complex show so the internal job card and sorting out of drawings and making sure we were all on the same page went very quickly” he said. “I started working with Richard on the Tuesday, explaining how it all works and what we need to look for and he showed a big interest in this. ‘Luckily’, we ran into a problem with pre-production at the office, so I could take him through that as well and could explain how we resolve these issues long before they become problems on site. Once again, he was very eager to learn the process. He quickly picked up the ins and outs of the safety file as well.” 

“I let him know that he would be running the show and responsible for making sure that everything happens the way it should, and he was more than happy to assist, step up and do it. When we arrived on site he conducted the induction and toolbox talk with the team as well as the necessary safety appointments” explained Leslie.

“We walked into the venue and audio had already been setup by INHOUSE Venue Technical Management, our partners on this show. I left him to explain to the crew what needed to happen, and all got done. Come show day, he ran with the crew and made sure they knew their call times, break times and lunch times and even where the crew lunch was being served. He really impressed me for a first-time PM in training and showed a lot of interest. Whenever a presenter came with their PowerPoint presentation, Richard was right there to assist.” 

There were some questions from both new ‘PMs’ during their set ups that showed the thought and interest they were putting into their new challenges. Both setups went very well and were completed in no time. 

“My passion and desire came from working on events as a stage hand with Crewsaders. When I heard about the learnership, I immediately saw the opportunity to empower myself in a field that I love, with Africa’s ‘Number One’. My dream is to be PM-ing big international and local events. I am still in 1st year at the Academy but have already picked up skills around organisation and communication that I am keen to pursue further” enthused Tumelo.

“I have learnt a lot in my first year, both technically and tactically, and am very grateful for the opportunity to shadow one of the most skilled PMS. I was actually quite surprised by the amount of exposure we got. I thought that as 1st years they would start us off slowly but the experience we have gained surpassed my expectations.”

Richard agrees “I joined the learnership hoping to become part of something big. The number and size of the events done by Gearhouse in this country promised loads of experience, exposure and working with start-of-the-art technology. Not to mention of course, something to brag about!” 

Richard sees himself as one of the major influencers in the Live Event Technical Production Services industry, in the future. “Thanks to the exposure I have gained through the Academy, I have found a hidden strength: Project Management. I am pursuing it with full force and have already learnt skills like Time Management, Project Planning and how to work under pressure. Training with the Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy has given me more than just a technical education. For me it is opening a door through which I will journey to a better life.”

 Story and photos by Robyn D’Alessandro

Nov 15, 2018

The Gearhouse Group of Companies