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SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

On-line version ISSN 2071-0763
Print version ISSN 0258-5200


PUCHERT, Juliet I.; DODD, Nicole  and  VILJOEN, Kim. The relationship between type of secondary education and subject choice with technically oriented aptitudes for automotive operators. SA j. ind. Psychol. [online]. 2017, vol.43, n.1, pp.1-13. ISSN 2071-0763.

ORIENTATION: The central theme of this study attends to the role of secondary education in relation to two broad categories of specific aptitudes (psychomotor and spatial abilities). Utilising type of secondary education (incorporating subject choice) could be a crucial selection mechanism for high-volume, entry-level technical positions. RESEARCH PURPOSE: The objective of this research was to investigate whether the type of secondary education (incorporating subject choice) could be used as a proxy for psychomotor (dexterity and coordination) and/or spatial (ability to mentally assemble representations and spatial perception 2-D and 3-D) aptitudes in the selection of operators for an automotive plant in South Africa MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY: The motivation for this study arose from the evident gap in academic literature as well as the selection needs of the automotive industry. RESEARCH DESIGN, APPROACH AND METHOD: A quantitative approach with a cross-sectional research design was used with a convenience sample (n = 1566) of work-seeking applicants for automotive operator positions in South Africa. These applicants completed a biographical questionnaire and five sub-tests from the Trade Aptitude Test Battery. The Chi-square test was used to determine the association between form of Grade 12 qualification and selected technical aptitudes. MAIN FINDINGS: Statistically and practically significant relationships were found between type of secondary education (incorporating subject choice), eye-hand coordination and spatial visualisation. Broad performance levels in the five aptitude instruments employed in this study were significantly associated with the type of matriculation certificate held by applicants. Specifically, types of secondary education that included mathematics and/or science as subjects were associated with higher levels of performance in the five specific aptitudes. PRACTICAL/MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS: The type of secondary education (incorporating subject choice) held by applicants could be regarded as a key predictor variable in human resource selection. The study makes a case for a multiple-hurdles approach to selection and proposes a cost-effective preliminary screening method for low-level technical positions. CONTRIBUTION/VALUE-ADD: The study provides information to improve upon selection practices within the South African automotive industry. It could also assist human resource practitioners in designing selection processes for similar entry-level employees in other working contexts. The study makes a case for a multiple-hurdles approach to selection and highlights the reciprocal relationship between education and specific cognitive abilities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

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