SAIW – From Strength to Strength

14 October 2009

The SAIW is an Authorised National Body (ANB) of the International Institute of Welding (IIW) and was the first body outside of Europe authorised by the IIW to operate their Manufacturer Certification Scheme, which the SAIW has called the SAIW Certification Welding Fabricators Certification Scheme.

From a training perspective, Guild says that despite the worldwide economic downturn the Institute continues to have packed training classes – up to 95% capacity for most of its courses, which are generally run from its Johannesburg headquarters. I have no doubt that we would have seen even fuller classes had it not been for the crisis, but our government’s infrastructure spend continues unabated, stadiums are being built and new, state of the art, Power Stations are a reality, he says.

Guild says that this all adds up to a buoyant welding industry that requires a constantly increasing number of better trained and more highly qualified personnel. The notion that there is a dearth of welders in this country is not quite accurate. A shortage of specialised skills is more to the point and I’m pleased that so many local companies are realising that, in the SAIW, they have on their doorstep a world class facility which is dedicated to helping close this all-important skills gap in the industry.

The area of greatest concern according to Guild is at the Supervisory level and that the Institute will be concentrating heavily on training Welding Supervisors through its International Welding Supervisor (IWS) and International Welding Practitioner (IWP) programmes. Our quest is now to convince fabricators of the importance of highly effective people at this level and that to be effective, supervisors should be up to date with the latest technologies and procedures. In a fast-moving technology- based industry where mistakes can be disastrous, there’s no room for complacency

It is not only locally that the SAIW has been effective in training delivery. From bordering countries like Zambia and Namibia – where the SAIW has been involved in training programmes for some time – to countries further afield like Sudan – where Guild is visiting in September to finalise a cooperation agreement with his Sudanese counterpart – and Nigeria, the Institute’s involvement has been significant.

The recent fact-finding visit of a high-powered delegation from the Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) is but one example of the close ties between the SAIW and its African counterparts. We are an integral part of the African welding scene, says Guild, and we are working closely with several African countries to help raise the level of skills in those countries. In Nigeria, the PTDF is funding the Nigerian Institute of Welding (NIW) to train trainers to train welders for the petroleum and gas industry. In turn the NIW will get the assistance of the SAIW to train these trainers.

Guild says that an important trend emerging from the training process both here and abroad was the growing involvement of women in the welding industry. The escalating high-level contribution being made by women in our industry is most gratifying, he says. Testament to this was the outstanding performance of young women in the Young Welder Competition earlier this year, the plethora of female graduates in various welder training programmes during the year, Emily van der Schyf winning the prestigious Phil Santilhano Award and Louise Petrick co-authoring the paper that won the Harvey Shacklock Gold Medal.

As regards the role of the SAIW as custodian of the integrity and quality of the Southern African welding industry, Guild says that the SAIW Welding Fabricators Certification Scheme, which certifies companies according to the ISO 3834 standard, is the single most important facet of this process. The scheme will elevate the standards of the entire region’s industry making it more competitive against foreign competition as international project managers involved in projects in South Africa will take cognisance of local companies with ISO 3834 certification to the clear benefit of certified companies.

Guild added that end users can no longer be expected to purchase lower quality products simply because they come from local suppliers and can now specify ISO 3834 certification as a condition of purchase.

The overall effect will be the improvement in the quality and integrity of our welding industry and its alignment with the highest standards in any first-world country.

On the question of automation in the welding industry Guild says automation and semi-automation of the welding process will inevitably increase because of the benefits they offer in productivity and quality.

This will not significantly adversely affect job numbers. Fabricators need to be cost effective and if they don’t keep up with international trends they will not get work and jobs will be lost in any case. The infrastructure projects will contribute to increasing automation in fabrication shops but the spin-off should be that our fabricators improve their prospects for exports. High numbers of new jobs will arise in the site construction and maintenance of new infrastructure plants and these numbers will not be significantly impacted because most site welding is not readily suited to automation. The challenge is to ensure that South African welders get these jobs and at the moment I don’t see enough being done to ensure this will be the case.”

Regarding the future of the SAIW Guild envisages major expansion for the SAIW. There is significant potential for this Institute. We have developed skills that make it possible for us to be the training choice for almost the whole of the African welding industry and I will be discussing with the Council the possibility of growing our offerings in several directions, he said.

Recently the Institute underwent a corporate identity metamorphosis, changing its logo and corporate colours for the first time since its inception in 1948. It’s part of growth process, says Guild. Although we deeply respect our crest, we all felt it was time for the image of the Institute to reflect its core – a modern, dynamic organisation providing the latest, state of the art services to a fast globalising industry, he concluded.