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Volkswagen enhances technical learning experience at Kariega high school

The nature of work is evolving rapidly, with many traditional jobs being automated or augmented by technology. To equip the next generation with the skills they need to thrive in the digital age, it is imperative that technology and automation are introduced in the classroom.

Daniel Pienaar Technical High School in Kariega typifies this transition to technology and the inclusion of automation and robotics. Supporting the school in its mission to meet 21st-century skills demand, Volkswagen Group Africa (VWGA) has donated a refurbished automation cell for learning purposes. The cell consists of two Kuka robots (16 kg

workload), two control panels, two pendants, one gripper and attachment, teaching equipment, safety fencing (wire mesh), basic safety and automation training and electrical drawings.

To ensure the equipment is installed, programmed and protected, VWGA Body Shop planning team worked with local partners which include Rubicon (power solutions), Robot Technologies of South Africa (robotics), KDA (automation), Siemens (technology) and EME (electrical and mechanical installations).

Bernd Schaberg, Head of Production Planning at VWGA, emphasised the need for careers in automation. “About 17 years ago, VWGA Body Shop operated with about 30% automation; in 2024, this number has increased to 70%. An increase in automation in operations means an increase in the skills required to operate and maintain new equipment,” Schaberg said.

Schaberg commended the school for embracing technology which encourages problem-solving and enhances technical abilities.

Daniel Pienaar Technical High School principal Kola du Toit said teaching technology and automation in high school empowers learners with the foundational knowledge and digital literacy skills they need to navigate the dynamic job market with confidence. “When our learners see new equipment in the classroom, they get excited. The new cell will give them perspective on what to expect in industry once they leave high school,” said Du Toit.

Daniel Pienaar Technical High School has 1 000 learners and offers a qualification equivalent to a Further Education and Training college N3, focusing on electrical disciplines. Du Toit said there is a need for technical training, but there seems to be a stigma attached to learners who pursue vocational careers. “In fact, there is a perception that learners who study at technical schools or Further Education and Training Colleges are lesser educated than university graduates, yet with Mathematics and Science as prerequisite subjects in the technical field and require the same level of logic and critical thinking as academic careers.”

With a demand for technical skills in industry, technology and automation are not just tools for performing routine tasks—they are engines of innovation that drive progress and change. “By exposing our high school learners to these concepts early on, we cultivate their curiosity, spark their creativity, and inspire them to think critically,” Du Toit added.

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