VW Group Africa’s Best Apprentice award

Kariega-based Melony Els-Thom is the proud recipient of this year’s Best Apprentice award at Volkswagen Group Africa. The 42-year-old embodies tenacity and unwavering determination. Her career began at Volkswagen Group Africa as a temporary employee in 2005, where she worked as a Quality Inspector.

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The Volkswagen Group announced their 2024 Best Apprentices at a ceremony held in Wolfsburg, Germany at the end of June. This accolade is given every year in recognition of outstanding performance from apprentices who are training to become qualified artisans. This year, 49 VW Group trainees from 41 locations and 19 countries worldwide were ceremoniously honoured.

Although Melony pursued teaching at Midlands College for Early Childhood Development at the end of her contract, her heart remained in motor manufacturing.

In 2017, she returned to Volkswagen Group Africa, seeking opportunities to grow in the manufacturing sector, and within a year, she secured permanent employment. This pivotal move allowed Melony to pursue her long-awaited dream—an apprenticeship in mechatronics at the Volkswagen Technical Learning Academy.

Her successful application in 2020 marked the start of her apprenticeship journey. Now in her final year, she thrives on mechanical, electrical and robotics challenges. Simultaneously, she gains practical experience and on-the-job training at the plant.

Part time, Melony continues her Diploma in Management Operations at PMI Institute and N4 Electrical Engineering studies at the PE College Struandale campus in Gqeberha, expressing a desire to delve deeper into Programmable Logic Control (PLC) Programming.

Sharing a proud moment: from left, Russell Coleman (Human Resources Director), Melony Els-Thom (Best Apprentice), Gerald Hooper (Training Supervisor at the Technical Learning Academy), Ulrich Schwabe (Production Director) and Tiz Bonadei (Head of Learning and Talent Development).

Melony says the Best Apprentice Award is about teamwork. She was one of five team members in her group and the only female. “The award boosted my confidence in achieving my career goals. I am extremely grateful to my instructors, mentors and fellow team members for their unwavering support. Even though I was named Best Apprentice, I feel my team helped me to achieve this recognition,” she says.

Despite her initial ambition to become a radiographer, Melony discovered her true passion later in life—a reminder that it’s never too late to pursue a fulfilling career.

The Volkswagen Technical Learning Academy was established to create a pool of qualified artisans from within the company and from the community. Russell Coleman, Volkswagen Group Africa Human Resources Director, said people development remained the company’s key priority.

“We create an environment for continued learning. Our apprentices and artisans are able to compete globally against the best. We are proud of Melony’s achievement. Her determination and hard work have delivered superior results,” says Russell.

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