Louis Pretorius, the regional director (Highveld) for the Electrical Contractors’ Association of South Africa – ECA(SA) – has been a loyal, dedicated employee at the Association for more than 22 years of the 40 that he’s been involved in the electrical industry.
Louis is proudly one of the ‘old school’ electricians who demands perfection from his students – not because he wants to make their lives difficult but because where electricity is involved, there are no short cuts and anything short of perfection is just not good enough. This is why he’s highly respected in the electrical industry – students who pass through his hands always make the grade and they remember him with a great deal of respect and gratitude.
Sparks: Where were you educated?
LP: I was educated at Goudrif High School in Germiston and then went onto study at technical colleges in Germiston and Kempton Park. I completed a diploma in training through Damelin and am also a registered assessor and moderator.
Sparks: How long have you been involved in the Industry?
LP: I have been in this industry from back in the days when General Tyres was still a ‘Private’. Seriously, though, I’ve have been involved in the industry for 40 years, 30 of which I have spent in the training sector. Currently, I am responsible for all the training at the ECA(SA)’s head office in Meadowdale.
Sparks: When and where did you start your career?
LP: I started work in July, 1974, at what was then known as the General Electric Company. I spent the first six months working as a fitter and turner but prior to completing my two years of compulsory service in the army, I contacted my training officer and told him I wanted to be an electrical apprentice. The rest is history.
Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the years?
LP: Number one must be the advances in technology; and two, the decline in the standard of workmanship.
Sparks: What major projects have you worked on and what is your greatest accomplishment?
LP: Being involved in a training centre, we have done a number of development projects, the biggest being the development of the ECA (SA) national office, which was quite a learning curve. To me, every student I have assisted in becoming a qualified artisan is an accomplishment. When I’m out and about or at an ECA(SA) branch meeting, it’s a good feeling to be approached by people who say, “Hello Mr Pretorius,” and remind me that I trained them years ago.
Sparks: Have you won any awards?
LP: Does long service count? No, I have not received anything worth mentioning.
Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career?
LP: I can honestly say that I have not had anyone who has inspired me. Unless I can mention the time that my late father told me to “get a job or … …” then it would be true to say that he inspired me. Tom Kearns, my first training manager, was a great mentor who taught me a huge amount about how to work and deal with people.
Sparks: What, to your mind, is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time?
LP: The current economic and political situations in the country are big challenges because we need economic and political stability to ensure growth.
Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job?
LP: I enjoy the diversity in my position. I never know what will happen next when the phone rings or there is a knock on my door.
Sparks: How do you motivate your staff?
LP: Nowadays I don’t motivate anymore; I just threaten!
Sparks: If you could “do it all again”, would you change anything? If so, what would that be?
LP: Yes, I would change something: I would have continued studying. But, as they say, hindsight is a perfect science.
Sparks: Would you advise a person leaving school to enter the electrical industry? And why?
LP: Yes I would. There are so many opportunities. Look at me. I started out as an electrician but I am no longer working in the trade. I do, however, still have my qualification as an electrician.
Sparks: What is your advice to electrical contractors?
LP: Hang in there, plan ahead. Better times are upon us.
Sparks: What is your favourite quote?
LP: The one that jumps to mind is, in Jan Brand’s famous words,“Byt vas, beter tye is oppad”.
Sparks: Name three things on your ‘bucket list’ (things you want to do before you ‘kick the bucket’).
LP: I would like to do a course in scuba diving and go diving at the coast; tour the country; and start brewing my own beer. The big one, however, is to avoid kicking the bucket!