Caption: Intern, Malibongwe Mthembu from Accurite CNC Engineering working hard on his experiential training programme initiative, which will enable him to get essential practical training. Here, he is seen checking on a job at Accurite’s factory in Westmead, Durban.


Hailing from a disadvantaged background, Malibongwe Mthembu knew that given the right break, he could become an engineer. The orphaned Mthembu was brought up by his grandfather. “There were a lot of us, and my grandfather only had his state pension,” Mthembu recalled.


Mthembu knew from his high school years, that engineering was the right-and only-job for him, but it was not hoping to come easy.” I can envisage things, machine them and solve problems,” he explained. The ambitious, yet cash-strapped teenager, had to wait two years after leaving the Muziwesize High School in Paul Pietersburg near Vryheid, in KwaZulu-Natal, before getting an all-important bursary to study engineering at the Durban University of Technology. However, he was not idle during his two-year-gap.


“I helped my neighbour build a house and learned a lot about construction in the process, the R100-a-day I got really helped me,” he said.


He applied to the Office of the KZN Premier for a bursary for the two-year engineering course and it was a day-to-remember when he was called in to sign a contract. I was very happy as I had no one else to help me,” he added.


It was the beginning of a journey that was to shape his life.  The dedicated and determined Mthembu did well and finished his course in record time. He then sent out his CV to Durban based engineering companies in a bid to get them to take him on as an intern for a year, as he needed 12 months’ practical experience to complete his engineering qualification.


Accurite CNC Engineering, which designs, manufacturers and supplies components to a wide variety of industries, showed an interest and the Experiential Training Programme (ETP), an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology, implemented through the Technology Localisation Implementation Unit (TLIU) and hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), agreed to sponsor him to enable him to get that crucial experience needed. More than 500 science, engineering and technology students across the country have been supported by the TLIU ETP since its inception in 2014. The aim being to increase the graduation rate by providing them with practical work exposure and training for their Practical 1 and Practical 2 training university requirements for their graduation.


The interns receive mentorship and support from their appointed company-assigned mentors as well as visits from their university’s work integrated learning coordinator who visits them at least twice during their placement to check on their progress. The ETP programme contributes to the employability of the science, engineering and technology graduates and some 134 jobs have already been created since the programme was initiated, with the graduates either being absorbed by their hosting companies or by the industry.


Mthembu is the first intern that Accurite CNC Engineering has taken on under the programme.


“I am really enjoying it at Accurite; it’s interesting work and I am working with metal relevant to my experience,” he said as he marked his first month into his internship.


He is adding value to Accurite CNC Engineering and Nalini Dewchan, a company member, said he was an extra person and proving to be a great help.


Now it’s Mthembu who is helping to support his grandfather, whom he will be inviting along to his graduation ceremony. All that early construction experience will come in useful too as he plans to build his grandfather a house one day.


Mthembu is grateful to the TLIU programme and Accurite CNC Engineering for giving him the chance to gain practical experience and ultimately his qualification. His next challenge will be to find a permanent job. “But now, I have a future,” he beamed.