In the Spotlight – Thulani Mngomezulu
F: Tell us a little about your career path.
T: My first official job was as a Mechanical Technician at Sasol Synfuels in Secunda back in 2005. After about two years I thought I needed a change, and joined Engen Refinery in Wentworth, Durban. I worked there as an Area Inspector while also enrolling for a few welding related courses.
F: You worked at the SAIW at some time, didn’t you?
T: Yes, in 2011 I got an opportunity to join the SAIW as a Welding Consultant. This appointment was key in developing myself further in the welding engineering space. Joining Lincoln Electric – an internationally acclaimed company – was obviously yet another major opportunity for me in terms of growth and development.
F: Specifically, when did you start at Lincoln Electric and describe what you do there
T: I joined Lincoln Electric in June 2016 as a Technical Manager for the South African region. My primary responsibilities are: managing our Welding Technology Centre situated at our Midrand head office; organizing technical seminars for the local industry; organizing and giving training to our customers on a range of solutions and various welding topics; provision of technical support to customers and promoting welding education solutions to training institutions.
F: Do you enjoy your job at Lincoln?
T: Absolutely! I find my work exciting and, perhaps most importantly, it has been a fulfilling experience to be able to contribute towards the advancement of welding in the construction industry and others both locally and in the region.
F: What do you think of the standard of welding in general in South Africa?
T: South Africa has very high standards, especially compared to our neighbours in the Southern African region. But we still have a long way to go if we want to be able to rely predominantly on local welding skills for major construction and other projects in future. Talent nurturing should begin earlier, training centres need to be better organised around the country and assessment methods need to be standardized and monitored.
F: Could you comment on the role that the SAIW is playing in maintaining welding standards in SA
T: The role that the SAIW has played over the years has been an important one. It is important for the SAIW to continue setting the tone and championing the development of welding in the region, in all respects including in continuing to lead the implementation of the points I mention in the previous question.
F: What do you feel about the prospects for the welding and related industries in general in South Africa in the long term.
T: It is essential that South Africa urgently develops new infrastructure and accelerates upgrades and maintenance programmes with existing infrastructure especially in the in transport, power generation sectors and others. There is no doubt that welding expertise features high on the list of critical skills required for the success of these projects. Consistent investment in skills development is of outmost importance to give birth to a new breed of welders, quality inspectors and welding engineers and others to take over the baton from the retiring generation.
F: Any comments on the macro economic situation in South Africa and globally and how this affects business in general and the local welding/NDT/steel industry in particular.
T: While there is little we can do about the political and economic environment in general, we must ensure that our own industry-house is in good order with world class standards to meet the future head-on. We must not remain stagnant and we especially need to be conversant with new technologies that are continuously evolving. It is also our responsibility to ensure that more people, especially younger people, are allowed in and empowered to positively contribute towards the economy through our great industry, which offers so much in terms of employment.
F: When you say that young people should be “allowed in” could you elaborate?
T: Our industry is not exempt from the social ills that continue to trouble the lives of ordinary South Africans on a daily basis. Issues of inequality, racial and gender discrimination remain revalent in our workshops, offices and boardrooms throughout our industry. While these are difficult issues to confront, they will not just vanish. We all need to assume a leadership role in an effort to alleviate these ills to give everyone a chance especially the youth of this country.