In this month’s staff profile we meet one of our expert welding lecturers Dennis Bell. Born in Benoni, his journey from moulding to mastery has been defined by tenacity and dedication. With no formal tertiary education, Dennis’s expertise stems from hands-on experience. His insights reveal the importance of SAIW in bridging gaps in the welding sector and his positivity sees him impart life lessons as he seeks to empower his students on a daily basis…

Q. Please can you give a brief outline of where you grew up, went to school and completed your tertiary education?

A. I was born in Benoni and at a later stage moved to Reiger Park, Boksburg, where I still live all these years later. I went to Reiger Park Primary School but did not attend high school. I also don’t have any tertiary education. After I finished primary school, I immediately started working.


Q. How did the first years of your career/first job/s build on what you learnt at university/college but in a more practical setting? What were the key lessons you learned during this time?

A. I did not go to university or college and immediately started working. My very first job was moulding, then after moulding I moved into drilling. My passion was always to become a welder and that is why I pursued welding training in 1981 at the School of Welding at Weltco. The training took me two weeks to complete. The key lesson I learned, especially during my moulding days, was what extremely hard work it was. Back then, there was no such thing as automatic machines. Everything was done manually and took a lot of hard work and energy.

Q. How did you come to work at the SAIW and what will your role be at the association?

A. I learned about the position from a relative on my wife’s side who also happens to be one of my co-workers, Mr Willie Williams! I started working at the SAIW in 2013, was briefly retrenched last year, but was asked to resume my duties in April. My current role at the SAIW is a Welding Lecturer to the students.

Q. What do you feel are the biggest obstacles currently facing the local welding sector?

A. Welding education is incredibly expensive, and most students cannot afford it, nor can their parents assist them due to the serious financial stress caused by our crumbling economy.

Q. Why does the SAIW have such an important part to play in assisting the local industry to overcome the challenges it faces and for it to grow and prosper? For example, in terms of training and technical support?

A. Welders with experience are desperately needed in our sector. Our job is to quickly train them and have them ready to be the greatest welders they can be. We just hired students who not only assist us in our working environment but also receive training from us (free of charge). So, to speak, one hand washes the other. In this manner, we can help students while also obtaining assistance.

Q. What do you consider the most exciting innovations/developments in welding over the last five years?

A. The robotic welding machine and virtual welding are undoubtedly the most intriguing innovations at the moment. All you have to do is program the machine, and it will do everything for you. We also have students coming in soon to witness these amazing developments first hand.

Q. What is your life philosophy/a sentence that sums up your approach to life and work?

A. Always approach life with a positive attitude. Life can be difficult in general, but approaching people and situations with a positive attitude can make a huge difference. We all have challenges, and being positive makes those struggles appear less difficult.

Q. What is one of the most important lessons you have learnt in life and who or which situation did this stem from?

A. The most important life lesson I’ve learnt is to respect others. We all have challenges, and just because someone’s life appears to be going well on the surface doesn’t necessarily mean everything is going well on the inside. You can always have less, so be grateful for what and who you do have in your life.

Q. What are your personal and professional goals for the next year?

A. The company sent us a form to fill out detailing the future goals we are most passionate about achieving. I mentioned that I wanted to learn more about computer courses in general and the SAIW programs in particular, for example learn how to set them up. I would also love to teach more students and inspire them to be the best versions of themselves. When they don’t get something right the first time, my pupils frequently become very frustrated. I urge them to go for a brief walk, take a deep breath, and then return. They only require encouragement to believe in themselves.