Self-Sustaining Mechanical Education and Basic Workshop Management
When I first came to The Gambia, I was the workshop manager in different professional workshops. This experience showed me how mechanical skills are very much needed in The Gambia. It also showed me that the education given to mechanics was not adequate because young men from schools were not able to fulfill even the easiest of diagnostics and repairs and did not seem to be receiving enough help in their professional development as mechanics.
This was the beginning of MEC-SAC (Mechanical Skills and Acquisition Centre) a skills centre registered in 2004 under The Companies Act from 1955 in The Gambia. Our Certificate of Incorporation number is: 318 2004. MEC-SAC is a charitable organization and our motto is “Helping Those Who Want To Be Helped.”
Certificate of Incorporation
Our plan as a charity was to receive students from secondary schools or existing mechanics who had basic skills and manners. Our goal is to train them to be reliable and skilled motor mechanics who are able to run their own workshop and employ other mechanics or to be a good mechanic in another workshop.
We also educate those young men who do not have reading and writing skills. We have a Qualified American teacher who is teaching them technical English skills. These English skills are vital in being a good mechanic who is able to service a vehicle to keep it as it should be on the road.
We try to prepare these young mechanics for working in the field after graduation and give them the skills and knowledge so that they do not destroy anything by careless acts.
The Skills Centre is built on the foundation of a professional workshop, only that the students are fully involved in the running, organizing, and problems involved in managing the lace. Our training process helps them see what happens when a car is spoiled by a mistake or the impact of problems and conflicts with the customers. We openly discuss and explain these different situations because we want the young mechanics to understand how such things can destroy the flexibility and finances of a workshop. We emphasize honesty and integrity as these are an important part of being a potential workshop owner or working in another person’s workshop. We teach many skills that are very helpful here in The Gambia such as motorbike mechanics, generator repair and even to be a mechatroniker for the skills of electronic diagnostics.
We work with each student as individuals and try to learn from them the specific area of mechanics in that they have interest and skill. We have found through our work that these young mechanics develop their skills quite rapids because they see that this is a way to better themselves and their family. Our belief is that the young students here in this country are gifted to such an extent and it gives us great pleasure to see them grow and develop their mechanical skills.
Our concept is not to get students from rich parents and to train them and for them to get paid from home. We want to have highly motivated or easy to motivate open minded young students. We work to give them trust in their skills and in themselves. We also teach them to organize their own work and the workshop area. We provide them with food, shoes, and uniforms. We give them a training allowance each day to pay for their transport or lodging for the week. These pay are allowances are calculated daily and increase each and every year. We give instruction and advice on the wisdom of saving money from their allowances.
We are working to be able to teach every possible skill needed to build a structure of different exerts in the same field. We want to provide mechanics to mechanical shops were they can work and provide a good service to the deserving customers and make life easier for everybody. We also want to prove stable working places for the future of the working citizens of The Gambia.
Up to now, every short term student or mechanic who comes to our skills centre is still able to come for advice and possible help. We are not working as a competition to anybody and we are glad to offer help to many institutions here in The Gambia. The relationship between our current students and our past ones is a good partnership.
Our interest is for the future to make sure to provide a working place for any mechanic that graduates from MEC-SAC.
The students are learning under real work shop conditions. I learned from my own workshop experience that this is not the case in most work shops. Our students learn to organize the workshop to a certain standard, to make work easy, fast, and efficient. One of our future goals is to teach the students skills in analyzing productivity and work power. We are also helping them understand the expensive nature of owning and running a workshop and what it takes to run it and to be able to pay income taxes and social security for the employees as well as for the benefit of The Gambia income.
The work of a mechanic today is one of the most responsible craft works known in the world. We emphasize safety because any mistake can jeopardize the life of one or many people. We work for the students to learn to concentrate on the job at hand and to be able to ask for help with any problems. We try to teach in all of these various situations.
The knowledge and understanding of tools and equipment is done from more experienced students to the new students. We emphasize that when a mechanic has certain skills and knowledge, he should be willing and able to pass that knowledge on to other potential mechanics.
Our MEC-SAC workshop is not a perfect place, but we are well on our way to creating the idea and understanding of well trained mechanics that will help the people of their country by developing workshops and creating jobs and the salaries and tax income that go with such jobs.
Our idea was to create a Skill Centre for as follows:
- Mechanical workshop – which is already existing
- Body Repair shop – to change the understanding of accident repairs so that vehicles can be properly repaired here and not shipped out to Europe or to another African country
- Body Spray shop – we need good car painters as there are few here in this country. The condition of a car should be maintained because of the value it has
- Welding shop – we want to have the possibility of having any kind of material professionally welded, (we have one very skilled welder from Germany here in The Gambia who is willing to teach the well protected secrets of welding)
- Fiberglass Repair and Laminating – this would be part of our Body Spray shop
- Car Park – we would like to run a little car park to train the skill of a professional technical skilled driver and teach the skills of towing and recovery
We are in need of funds to make all of these goals a reality. We have a vision to help give gifted young men a bright future in the service sector and to allow The Gambia to gain a big step in the development of a better life without the desire to leave and to go to another country. We want to show through MEC-SAC that a young man can develop his mechanical skills and with hard work the Vision 2020 is attainable for them through this important education. MEC-SAC is here to be “Helping Those Who Want To Be Helped.”
Heinrich Walter Hantke