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Unilever, Wits and CHIETA launch unique partnership


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Public-Private-Academic partnership

WITS Partnership

South Africa’s top employer, Unilever, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (CHIETA) have formed a partnership that will establish a long-term strategic programme to develop young engineering leaders in South Africa.

“Through this Public-Private-Academic partnership, thirty students will be given the opportunity to work at Unilever’s Khanyisa factory, in Boksburg, gaining much needed on-the-job training and practical experience,” said Antoinette Irvine, Unilever Vice President of Human Resources. “The students will form part of the factory operations team for the duration of their year of employment, giving them practical exposure to the production process and an opportunity to develop their technical and problem solving skills,” added Irvine.

Khanyisa, Unilever’s new R1.4 billion Home Care factory includes green and world-class technologies. The factory produces Unilever brands such as Omo, Handy Andy, Domestos, Comfort and Sunlight. The state of the art liquids factory was opened in June 2015 as part of Unilever’s R4 billion investment strategy in South Africa which was implemented between 2010 and 2015.

Recent statistics released by the Department of Higher Education & Training indicate that as few as 15-25% of students who enroll in formal tertiary education programs go on to complete these. At Wits, roughly 40% of students who enroll to study Mechanical, Industrial or Aeronautical Engineering Degrees go on to complete and obtain this qualification.

“Our own research revealed that these low completion rates are primarily the result of insufficient funding, inadequate family or social support, lack of mentorship or exposure to the industry to obtain practical skills and understanding,” said Professor Robert Reid, Head of School of Mechanical, Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering at Wits. “By partnering with a leading manufacturing company like Unilever we will be able to bridge the identified gaps and ensure more work-ready engineers qualify,” he said.

Phumzile Lekgoathi, third year Mechanical Engineering student at Wits said, “This programme is a mind opening opportunity that gives lessons which you don’t get in varsity. I will gain an understanding of the simple principles of the working world as well as an enhanced engineering experience. It will help me channel my passion, as this is a cornerstone. Once I pass this, I will have a plan of how I want to contribute to the industry. It is an endorsement to my career and qualifications.”

According to Irvine, Unilever will explore similar opportunities in some of its other factories in order to strengthen the objectives of these partnerships. “Our growth strategy can only be fulfilled through the recruitment of talented and capable candidates. This exciting programme will not only change the face of academia, it will also create a brighter future for engineering students and South Africa as a whole,” concluded Irvine.

About Unilever South Africa

Unilever South Africa (Pty Ltd) is one of the largest FMCG companies in South Africa. The Company is over 100 years old, with brands like Sunlight, OMO, Lux, Knorr, Vaseline, Shield, Sunsilk, Flora, etc. that are household names throughout the country. Unilever South Africa has over 3 500 employees based across two offices and five manufacturing locations in South Africa. It is rated as one of South Africa’s best employers. For more information visit –

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