Expanding its roots and growing the tree of knowledge: DEKRA IOL celebrates local success and Pan-African expansion

In theory at least, a qualification helps a person get a job. But not everyone is cut out for university or college and, very often, tertiary education does not equip a person directly for the workplace. The DEKRA Institute of Learning (IOL) develops people who are not just qualified but employable, according to Chris Mörsner, Head of Training at this groundbreaking QCTO-accredited educational institution.

“One of our most pressing goals is to address one of the biggest challenges faced by South African industry today: building up a base of skilled employees, who can successfully navigate daily operational challenges,” says Mörsner.

He concedes that it is hard work, but the already enormous and ever-increasing demand for occupational training indicates just how important a gap DEKRA IOL is filling.

“This is also a step-by-step process, starting with the training and wellness of our own employees. By putting down sturdy roots through the development and empowerment of our people, we are establishing an ethos and setting an operational example of hard work and dedication for our students. That is why – every day – we strive to live by what we say,” he explains. 

The mantra and ethos that DEKRA IOL lives by is encapsulated in the concept of building a strong foundation by establishing strong roots. It is these very same roots which are the reason for the Institute’s incredibly successful year, Mörsner believes.

Deep roots for a bright future

Notwithstanding its alignment with the latest learning and educational trends and developments in the workplace, DEKRA IOL has deep roots which are nearly 100 years old. Part of a 98-year-old global group, and with a formidable reputation built up over the years and an innate understanding of the demands of local industry, the IOL’s parent company DEKRA Industrial is a Pan-African leader in inspection services, non-destructive testing (NDT), material testing, laboratory services, advanced NDT, asset integrity services. DEKRA IOL leads the field in terms  of occupational skills training and adult-based education.

Skills training provided through DEKRA IOL is applicable within a multitude of industries, including power generation, oil and gas, construction, petrochemical, manufacturing, fabrication, pulp and paper, rail, mining, steel industry and foundries.

For Mörsner, the true value to be found in this wide range of  skills training, industry-related full qualifications and occupational education comes through the combination of practical, theoretical and workplace components – which is always geared towards gainful employment. This also reflects the IOL’s 2028 vision to offer all forms of training and skills development, and to making a sustainable difference in reducing unemployment.

“In light of this, the roots metaphor is so apt. It refers to the tree of knowledge – a symbol for education – and also a tree that shelters and gives life. This all starts with us putting down roots, investing in our own people, training our own staff, so that each one gives the best they can, every day.

Currently, we are very successful, however that success comes with responsibility. Once you set the standard and reach the top, it takes an effort to stay there. Therefore, you have to remain humble, stick to your beliefs and keep returning to your roots,” he maintains.

Growing the tree of knowledge, expanding roots

Looking back over 2023, Mörsner says the greatest demand has been for instruction as a forklift operator which DEKRA IOL is able to offer through its partner Willco Safety and Training, which specialises in machine operator training. 

Another growing area which he expects to become even more sought-after next year is First Aid training. Pending changes in rules and regulations governing first aid accreditation have seen new elements being added to the training offered. Once DEKRA IOL has received its accreditation to meet these requirements, it will be the first occupational training institution in the country to offer the updated courses. 

An even more exciting growth spurt involves DEKRA IOL’s expansion into Africa, starting in Uganda and then expanding into 17 African countries over the next few months, providing process safety consulting and training including zone calculations and flammability source identification for a large Pan-African distillery.

In addition, the Institute is finalising a proposal which – if accepted – will secure a training deal for 2 500 branches of a large local retail group in aspects such as visual merchandising, and logistically-related training on facilities and warehousing management, including receiving and dispatching of goods. 

Mörsner says training for staff at the distillery will be relatively specific to that sector – such as atmospheric testing. However, tuition for the retail company will involve the provision of a wider spread of skills, which are also sought-after in many other industries.

He admits that DEKRA IOL’s push into Africa will test the company’s educational approach. While digital or online training has really gained popularity in South Africa, African clients prefer in-person training.

“This is what we will provide to the Pan-African distillery client. However, for the retail company, we will provide all 3 learning methods in a hybrid ‘blended learning’ model: a combination of classroom-based, in-person and online modules,” he points out.

As an enthusiastic custodian of the ‘tree of knowledge’ and excited by the imminent expansion of our roots into Africa, we are looking forward to meeting the adult education and occupational training requirements of many different industries locally and throughout Africa, in 2024 and beyond!” Mörsner concludes.