When Oscar Moshokoa matriculated from his high school in Bochum, Limpopo in 2015, he had no idea that only two years later he’d be competing in a global skills competition in Abu Dhabi.
Like so many young adults who finish high school in South Africa, Moshokoa didn’t have the means to go to university. He’d always hoped to study education but instead found himself unemployed for a year, unsure what step to take next. Then one day he received a phone call that would change his course.
“I was with my mom in North West when I received a phone call from a friend who told me about the Saint-Gobain YouthBuild Academy and urged me to apply. To be honest, I had no other option at the time and there was nothing to lose so I gave it a shot,” says Moshokoa.
After passing a variety of screening criteria based on health, technical ability, communication skills, values, attitude and aptitude, Moshokoa was accepted into the academy where he began a specialised skills learnership in steel frame housing, drywall and ceiling installation in January 2016.
“We learnt everything from drywall installation, to how to communicate as well as mathematics and workplace skills,” Moshokoa says. And then the practical work began.
Moshokoa and his classmates were required to install new walls and ceilings in a classroom at Ekurhuleni Primary School to gain practical experience. “It was difficult at first, and we had to redo mostly everything but when we eventually got it right, there was no turning back,” he explains.
It wasn’t long before Moshokoa had completed the majority of his learnership and felt confident enough to enter the World Skills South Africa competition last year in the dry wall and plaster category, where he won gold.
After graduating, Matthew Baney, Saint-Gobain YouthBuild Academy Manager, urged Moshokoa to train for the upcoming global World Skills Competition in Abu Dhabi. Moshokoa rose to the occasion and spent the better part of 2017 preparing for the competition, in which he recently participated.
“I learnt a huge amount from the experience. The scale of the global competition is massive compared to the South African version and I felt unsure of what to expect. Arriving at the competition in Abu Dhabi was quite intimidating at first but I soon realized it wasn’t so bad and started to enjoy myself,” says Moshokoa.
Competing at a global level taught Moshokoa that he has what it takes to do well. “It was a wonderful experience to contend against the best in the world and to interact with people from different countries and cultures,” he says. “I made a few new friends and most importantly, learnt how to remain calm and positive under pressure.”
But he hasn’t forgotten his dream to teach others. “I’d still like to be a teacher and am currently applying to study, but in the meanwhile I want to train people with similar backgrounds to compete against the world,” he says. “I learnt this year that you don’t fail at something because you’re unable but because you haven’t learnt how to be good at it yet. Putting my mind to achieving something has been a valuable life lesson,” says Moshokoa.
Moshokoa says his journey to becoming a skilled artisan helped him find himself. “I love working with my hands and knowing that I can start from scratch and make something beautiful. My favourite technique is bulk-heads, which is building up attractive patterns on a ceiling using plasterboard. It’s creative and fun, and the best part is knowing that other people enjoy what I’ve created,” he says.
“Oscar’s plan for 2018 is to study teaching and we’re helping him through the application process,” says Baney. “It’s been a pleasure to watch him grow his skills base and on a personal level. Oscar has amazing discipline and determination and I have no doubt that he will succeed, whether it is in education or construction,” concludes Baney.
About the Saint-Gobain YouthBuild Academy
The Saint-Gobain YouthBuild Academy is a Merseta (Metal Engineering & Related Services Education Training Authority) & CETA (Construction Sector Education Training Authority) approved partnership between YouthBuild International and the Light weight construction materials manufacturing company Saint-Gobain Gyproc, to address the critical skills shortage and high youth unemployment rate in South Africa.
The academy is the forerunner in Gypsum product training operations and provides learners with a 12 month qualification and a NQF level 3 certificate which they can use to apply for jobs.
For more information visit http://www.gyproc.co.za/saint-gobain-youthbuild-acad