Last week the SAIW held its inaugural ‘Ask the Experts’ lunchtime webinar. This first session in the series came about as a result of discussions with our members, who often face the dilemma when sourcing welders for projects of many welders but not enough of the right skills. We, therefore, began the webinar with a discussion about the scarcity of quality welding skills in South Africa and what can be done to rectify this but went on to several other pertinent questions.
Q: What do you say to the view that despite there being thousands of welders in South Africa they lack the right skills?’
A: Welding is a scarce skill in South Africa with a resultant shortage of suitably qualified welders, who are equipped to meet the required skill level for new and existing projects. The current situation follows decades of non-regulated welder training, resulting in many welders but very few who are adequately qualified or competent welders. In fact, in 2017, government identified a list of 13 scarce skills with welding ranked at number two on this list, highlighting the critical need for qualified artisans in this field.
Q: How do we develop an appreciation of a career in welding amongst school leavers who possess the necessary grades and aptitude to pursue a career in welding?
A: Internationally, the role of the apprentice starts at an early age as part of the education curriculum where school leavers already carry artisanal value for future employment.
Unfortunately, in South Africa, there is a stigma around being an artisan and a real lack of appreciation for the value this role holds as a potential career. Ultimately, the demand for work in current times lies in the blue-collar sector and we welcome industry co-operation and alliances for career upliftment which promotes our student welders to a level where they can add real value. This will provide better employment opportunities and provide skilled local welding services at a lower cost.
To assist with this problem the Quality Council for Trade and Occupation (QCTO) has set new professional standards for a skilled and capable South African welding workforce, which promises respectable salaries and the overall economic growth of the industry through aligned skills delivery and quality national qualifications.
Through a new single, integrated learning programme all traineeships are facilitated through the employee according to the QCTO curriculum and based on targeted skills training standards at the SAIW.
This means fabricators select and manage their employees, register them for the desired training standards for the services they require and the employee can complete their apprenticeship according to industry recognised standards related to the welding expertise required at their workplace.”
Q: How else is the SAIW boosting its welding training locally?
The SAIW is seeking to better serve the industry by providing a far more flexible, customised approach to the courses that it offers. This will see it developing specific skills programmes tailormade for individual students and specific sectors.
Overall, our training courses will continue to emphasise the role of the welder within an internationally recognised playing field via our association with the International Institute of Welding (IIW). But we are also focused on training students for what is required on the ground locally.
Ultimately, we aim to provide the required building blocks for a long-term career in welding which is in line with international standards and we also want to give our students the ability to work in local manufacturing and fabrication industries within a reasonable period of time.
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