The Gearhouse Group has a long and proud tradition of empowering youth through its highly respected Kentse Mpahlwa Academy. As the key technical solutions provider for the recent Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100, held at the FNB Stadium on 02 December, Gearhouse used the occasion to extend a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to its academy learners..

The Group offers proactive training programmes through the Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy, both for existing long-term employees and for youngsters entering the industry and many recent graduates of this Academy were given a chance to shine at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.


The Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy is used to upskill the local live event industry by means of an annual, free-of-charge Live Event Learnership. It provides learners from under-served communities around the country with the opportunity to study Technical Services Production and graduate with an annual SAQA-accredited Technical Production Services Learnership Certificate (Live Event Technical Production Certificate: SAQA ID 48669 at Level 4).

 The course material was written in-house and lays a solid foundation across all disciplines. Moreover, as Josef van Schalkwyk (Gearhouse Learnership training manager) explains: “Learners who show certain aptitudes may be accepted to continue with a second-year specialisation in a particular field, such as lighting, audiovisual or rigging.  These students are paid a stipend but are also hands-on from the start, so they can earn overtime – and accrue valuable experience – at weekend events. Gaining experience on the varied live events gives learners a wide variety of opportunities to work in diverse technical setups, from very corporate, to large-scale musical events and smaller social responsibility functions”. 

The three Gearhouse training facilities – in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town – produce around 45 work-ready Graduate Technicians per year. The Academy has produced a total of 450 graduates to date, the majority of which go on to work at rental supply companies, or in the fields of broadcast supply or production

“The Global Citizen Festival was my first time working at a stadium – so it was quite an experience for me. It gave me an opportunity to work with internationals, to see how they do things and to show them how I do things – it was an amazing opportunity to learn, especially for a second-year student like myself.” – Katlego Dire


The Global Citizen social impact initiative, therefore, ties in very well with the Gearhouse Group’s values and their own attempts to improve the lives of local youths, as well as to contribute to social upliftment and ultimately benefit the economy through the growth of the live events industry.

The strength and vitality of this mission are captured in the words of some of the Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy’s current and former students, all of whom had the chance to participate in South Africa’s biggest-ever live production: the Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100.

“It was an amazing experience to work on the Global Citizen Festival,” says Pierre Huskisson, who has been with the company for five years. “To see how they do everything overseas – lighting, audio, AV, LED – and to see how everything comes together to deliver a show that makes the audience happy. We saw a lot of new ways of doing things, and it’s so exciting to be able to use these skills in a South African context and help make local productions better.”

For Katlego Dire, “The Global Citizen Festival was my first time working at a stadium – so it was quite an experience for me. It gave me an opportunity to work with internationals, to see how they do things and to show them how I do things – it was an amazing opportunity to learn, especially for a second-year student like myself.”

Nhlanhla Ntshingila agrees, saying: “I’ve seen these kinds of events on YouTube, so to be a part of one of them myself was just amazing. To be included in the whole project was a very good experience, a very stretching experience, and I learned a lot,” she says, and Dali Ndlovu – who will specialise in rigging at the Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy this year – adds: “After all, it’s gigs like this that build our experience and make our CVs credible.”

Lumka Sonegla, who was only a first-year student when she was involved in the Global Citizen event, says it was “exciting to see a production of that standard come together. We do a lot of different kinds of shows and conferences – but this was something different. Some of the equipment we were exposed to is not available in this country – like some of the follow-spots we got to set up – so it was eye-opening for us.”

Asked about his experience of the Gearhouse training programme, Tshidiso Motaung reflects that: “It has moulded me a lot. I come from a studio background and I was new to the live event industry. I didn’t have much knowledge at first, but it gave me enough understanding to learn about the ups and downs of the industry. So, when the crew from Global Citizen came through, I was up to standard with international-level knowledge regarding equipment and how to plug things up and how to manage the power supplies.”

Dewald van Breda echoes these thoughts, identifying “the work experience and the workshops” as his favourite aspects of the Gearhouse training programme. “Getting out in the field, meeting new people, learning new things – all these experiences. Working on the roof at Global, we got a new view on things: how it all worked, how the project came together – we saw how important teamwork is, and how everyone worked together to get the job done.”

Global Poverty Project event director, David Beame agrees that the Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy affirms the ethos of the Global Citizen Project. “We were very happy to work with the Gearhouse Academy during the Global Citizen festival – which is an amazing initiative,” he said in a recent interview. He adds that “We are extremely pleased to be creating opportunities for young technical trainees to work on an international production of this nature.”

It is clear that the Gearhouse Group’s training programmes are succeeding in producing engaged, confident and exceedingly competent live engineers: young industry professionals who will rig South Africa’s biggest shows for many years to come. In the words of former US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”