One of South Africa's biggest skiboat manufacturers has jumped aboard a national boatbuilding project for the hearing impaired.

Austral Marine, which manufactures the well-known Angler and Panache brands, this week confirmed they are enlisting students from the Whisper Boat Building Academy, which assists the hearing impaired with technical training. Austral accepted its first batch of students in February last year, and is preparing for a third intake later this year.

Austral director Jason Price said he supported the social development ideals underpinning the progamme. “I just thought that Austral could be involved in giving something back, and giving [students] a skill – and hopefully employing some of them down the road if we get a gap.

“I really think it would be awesome to show the country and world how we are trying to improve lives by providing on the job skills training,” Price said.

The well-known Whisper academy, which trains about 30 deaf students a year in fibreglass lamination, serves as a feeder for the country's main boatbuilding hub where there is a scarcity of technical skills. Founded in 2004 in Khayelitsha, a sprawling township outside Cape Town, Whisper has encountered financial difficulties in recent years. However, it has been rejuvenated since partnering with the Durban-based KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, which is trying to expand and further develop the programme.

Price said he was impressed with the calibre of student coming out of the programme. He said trainees were issued with notebooks to help them communicate with Austral staff on the factory floor. “It has just been such a privilege to work with these people. We have just given as much as we can and am hoping in the near future to get hold of the Sharks Board to see if I can take them back on a permanent basis,” Price said.