The Gordon Institute of Business Science. Picture: ROBBIE TSHABALALA/FINANCIAL MAIL
The Gordon Institute of Business Science. Picture: ROBBIE TSHABALALA/FINANCIAL MAIL

Manufacturing needs to become "sexy" again to attract new generations of entrepreneurs and managers, says Justin Barnes, head of the new Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies.

The institute, based in Durban and launched this week, will offer Africa’s only manufacturing MBA from 2019 in partnership with Pretoria University’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs).

Manufacturing is considered vital to the growth of developing economies, both for job creation and for economic development.

In some Asian economies, manufacturing contributes over 30% of GDP. In SA its share has almost halved in recent years to below 13%.

The government has introduced a number of programmes to encourage manufacturing, but many have faltered. The most successful have been in the motor industry, where Barnes has been the department of trade & industry’s go-to private sector person for policy development. He led the government-industry team that devised the 2021-2035 Automotive Masterplan, details of which were announced last week.

Justin Barnes: We hope to inspire people to drive manufacturing into the future. Picture: SUPPLIED
Justin Barnes: We hope to inspire people to drive manufacturing into the future. Picture: SUPPLIED

But it’s not just about policy, says Barnes. It’s also necessary to convince managers and, more importantly, young people that careers in manufacturing can be as rewarding as those in service industries. "Young people brought up in the modern era struggle to see manufacturing’s value to the economy," he says.

It’s also necessary to equip existing managers with new skills and attitudes. "We hope to inspire people to drive manufacturing into the future — to develop a new generation of world-class, business-minded specialists."

Besides an MBA, Gibs will also teach a postgraduate diploma in business administration, which students must complete before tackling the MBA itself. Together the courses will take two years to complete.

Gibs dean Nicola Kleyn says most of the MBA programme will cover general management skills. However, elective subjects, research and overseas field trips will focus on manufacturing. "Assignments will have a similar flavour," she says.

Though Toyota is underwriting the institute, there will be no special focus on the motor industry. "We will be looking at broad-based manufacturing."

Annual student intakes will initially be limited to about 40. Nearly all students starting in 2019 will be South African, but eventually Barnes thinks about 25% could come from the rest of Africa.

In addition to the Gibs degree programmes, he says, the institute will offer executive development programmes, certification courses and specialist seminars.