Johnson Controls addresses lack of technical HVAC skills in local market with learnership programme

A lack of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Condition (HVAC) skills in the local market has led Johnson Controls to roll out a human capacity development and empowerment programme through a local learnership initiative. The programme focuses on developing technical skills within the industry. Johnson Controls has onboarded a total of 25 learners with its first intake.

Archibald Makatini, GM at Johnson Controls

Archibald Makatini, GM at Johnson Controls

The learnership offers an opportunity for young people in underprivileged communities to gain HVAC skills; which in turn increases the skills pool and promotes diversity in the industry. The programme, driven by Archibald Makatini, GM at Johnson Controls Building Efficiency Africa, focuses on skills development that assists the learners to build a foundation for them to pursue a career in the HVAC industry.

The learnership programme

The curriculum consists of modules that focus on oral communication; interpretation of information from the text; analysis of shape and dimensional space; mathematical investigation and monitoring of financial aspects; project initiation and the management thereof; administration processes and project documentation management to mention a few areas. It comprises a theoretical and practical component where each learner is matched with a mentor – coined as the ‘buddy system’. In the last month of the learnership programme; the learners receive certification.


The learnership comprises two streams: The first is the Open Trade Training Centre (OTTC)  programme where learners go to college for 5 weeks in total over the year and complete the rest of the programme with practical work at Johnson Controls. Upon completion, they will receive a diploma in working with Ammonia. The second stream is called The Learning Organisation (TLO); an annual course where the learners attend the class for 30% of their work time and then spend the remaining 70% in a practical role. Upon completion, they receive an NQF4/Diploma qualification in Business Administration or an NQF5/Diploma in Generic Management. With its second intake; Johnson Controls aims to train their learners on technical sales.

Job opportunities

The challenge most matriculants from underprivileged communities face; is the lack of funds to further their studies. As such, studying towards a certain career becomes particularly difficult which results in fewer opportunities for them to find employment. Once completed, the learners will be equipped to uplift themselves by being better positioned for employment in the HVAC industry. “Moreover, there is potential for permanent employment when the programme is completed, either with Johnson Controls or the candidate can apply to another HVAC focused company. Their certification ensures that the graduates are ‘shovel ready’ for any job opportunities that they seek,” says Makatini.


“The programme is enabling us to address inequality, the lack of diversity and technical skills within the HVAC industry, particularly with our youth.  The programme will also help in lowering the high unemployment rate in SA,” Makatini adds.


The learnership programme also enables the learners to identify and pursue other areas within the HVAC industry such as HR, logistics, warehousing, sales and more. The learnership curriculum looks at the learners’ aptitude and personality and based on this, Johnson Controls can align this, along with their interest, to different fields in HVAC. This allows them to move into other areas of business once they have the basic technical foundation of HVAC.

Success example

One perfect example is Portia Sibiloane, a permanent employee who had previously joined the learnership programme and has now moved into an Aftermarket Sales Estimator role at Johnson Controls since February 2020. Sibiloane is now able to provide day-to-day business support to the sales organisation with a strong technical background, enhancing her value with the role.


Furthermore, Johnson Controls plan to feed this local learnership programme into their international sales academy were permanently employed staff, including graduates of the learnership programme that have been employed permanently by the company, can further develop their skills, taking them to the next level of experience within the HVAC industry.


Makatini is passionate about human capacity development and empowerment. Further to this uplifting; this will allow the learners to develop themselves to have their own standing in the country. He stands by the saying ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for his lifetime’.  He explains, “I believe that it is important for companies to do the right thing and give back to society and underprivileged communities. This is exactly the goal of our local learnership programme.”

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