Jeanne Estherhuizen, a 53-year-old lady of Bloemfontein, is the only female outside of the UK to be awarded an honorary fellowship by the UK’s Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), making her the first woman from the international automotive sector to receive the accolade. CEO of Technicolour, a Free State-based panel-beating business, she was first invited to attend the annual IMI Gala Dinner in 2016, and this year she walked away with the coveted award.
Described by her peers as a leading role model in South Africa’s automotive sector, Estherhuizen has been involved in the Retail Motor Industry organisation since 2000 and has served in various capacities across a broad spectrum from a commercial as well as a skills development angle.
“Besides being Regional Chairperson of the RMI, MIBCO and SAMBRA, I also became the National Chairperson of Merseta and have served as a board member, the chair and currently as the vice-chair (for the past ten years). I also represented Business Unity South Africa on the National Skills Authority, advising the Minister of Higher Education and Training for three years and served on the National Skills Fund and locally on the Provincial Skills Development Forum,” she said.
She has been the president of the RMI for the past two years and also served a three-year term as the president of the Motor Industry Bargaining Council from 2010-2013. Esterhuizen has also been a Captain of Industry on the Board of the RMI and was subsequently elected as a board member.
With a long list of accolades, she is no stranger to receiving awards. “In 2011 I received the Automobil Person of the Year award because of my efforts in the Motor Industry and received a number of director’s awards from Sambra. I also hold office of the National Chairperson of the South African Motor Body Repairers Association, an Association of the RMI for the past five years.”
She was the first female president in 58 years of MIBCO (Motor Industry Bargaining Council) and the second female president in the 107-year-old RMI. Although she has achieved a lot in her international career, she still holds her home dear to her.
“Since 2007 I became a champion for Skills Development and Training and was instrumental in driving participation of the motor trades in the World Skills Competition, assisted RMI and Merseta in establishing local and international skills development and research partnerships. Locally I helped establish a Decentralised Trade Testing facility and my own company participates in a number of skills development initiatives locally,” she explained.
“I am a private person who only wishes to create awareness how important it is for South Africans to understand we can only grow the economy with sustainable jobs. This will only be a reality if we create skills for jobs. There is much opportunity but very little skill in SA to turn these opportunities into sustainable businesses. The skills we have are outdated and universities, colleges and schools do not fully address the needs of industry.”
Estherhuizen said the activities she is involved in locally, nationally and internationally would fill up a book. She is the mother of an incredibly talented young man who is married to a doctor and is looking forward to the possibility of becoming a grandmother, but till then she is focusing on developing skills in the motor industry.