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12 June 2024

Making Our Mark: Mihle

Making Our Mark celebrates the young people who are using their skills to improve their lives and their communities. Mihle Mvelakubi uses his skills in Bricklaying to inspire the next generation of students at a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college in Cape Town.

Mihle would say that life feels good. He balances his studies with teaching bricklaying, delivering his own construction work, and serving as a WorldSkills Champions Trust representative for Africa. But in his early life, Mihle had to overcome a lot of adversity. Hailing from Flagstaff in the Western Cape, he moved to Cape Town with his family. Not knowing the local language, Afrikaans, he did not attend high school and instead was identified as a slow learner. Teachers suggested he join School of Skills, an alternative education route for those who struggle in mainstream school.

Mihle was initially reluctant. He was aware, even as a child, of the poor perception of skills in South Africa. But the school proved to be transformational in his life. Once there, he quickly found that he had an aptitude for Bricklaying. Mihle explains, “It was the skill that stood out to me. I learned the architectural concepts behind different buildings and had the chance to sketch building plans, as well as doing hands-on work.”

From there, Mihle spent much of his free time working on local construction sites and secured a place at technical college – a considerable achievement as the college looked down on School of Skills pupils’ capabilities. Through hard work and single-mindedness, Mihle consistently ranked among the top ten in his college class and, at times, in the top three. He reflects, “When things were hard, and I felt like I was failing, I persevered. I kept in mind the people coming up behind me. I grew in confidence and self-belief.”

These strengths would come in useful during his time representing South Africa at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017. He says, “I understood that whatever I am doing, I am always competing against myself. I am competing against my last time, against my own ambition, and against WorldSkills standards. I realized that was the only way to progress.”

Mihle Mvelakubi from the WorldSkills Champions Trust.

Looking back, Mihle has had many supporters. He says, “My Bricklaying teacher really believed in me and so did my Principal. I told them my dream was to study for my National Certificate and other construction qualifications. They helped me to build a plan. I knew it would take years of studying, but I never let that stop me.”

His story demonstrates the importance of an enthusiastic mentor in propelling pupils towards a better future. That is what Mihle is now, to his many students at the Cape Town TVET college where he teaches and to his trainees at Corobrik. He says, “I tell them - Be patient, be positive, and remember that as long as you stick to your goal and stay consistent, you will achieve it. Back in 2012, I told my Bricklaying teacher that I wanted to have my own business and help my community. I wanted to show young people that with determination, they, too, can overcome barriers. I have been patient, I have been precise, and now I am well on the way to realizing my own dreams.” 

Follow our stories in this series and discover how more young people are making their mark.