Young Welder of the Year Competition

The competition was run in compliance with the WorldSkills competition in order to prepare the entrants for the possibility of competing in Liepzig. On Monday the 28th contestants were inducted and given safety regulations. They were also given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the equipment. The real competition started on Tuesday the 29th with the competitors welding a fillet weld with 10mm thick plate using the flux core welding process in the 2F position, a 3G plate butt weld using the manual metal arc process with low hydrogen electrodes, as well as an ASME IX 6G weld in 152mm x 12mm pipe weld. Visual inspection and break tests were used for evaluation of the fillet weld and radiography was used to examine the butt welds. From Wednesday the 30th through to Friday lunchtime the contestants had to complete aluminum, stainless steel and carbon steel projects. The final part of the competition was the carbon steel pressure vessel, which was hydraulically leak tested at 69 bar pressure.

The contestants were required to weld in all positions and were allowed to rotate the projects around 180 degrees. Although all contestants were 22 years old or younger, the quality of the welding was excellent. The winner and runner up will be put through an intense training process at the Institute in preparation for the Liepzig competition where the time allowed to complete the assignments for the competition will only be 22 hours.

The award ceremony was held on the Friday afternoon, 1st of February. Prof Madeleine du Toit, president of SAIW, addressed the audience and congratulated the contestants. She confirmed that South Africa needs highly skilled technical people, especially welders, and that welders are operating in interesting times with all the power stations being built and various projects in the transport, petrochemical and fabrication industries. In order to provide consistent quality levels, South Africa needs more training. We have internationally acclaimed training and training facilities operating according to the highest global standards. Welders do not have to stop training when qualified; there are many other welding qualifications they can obtain. Welding can provide young people with an international career path and every contestant is therefore a winner.

Carmen Adams-Hoffman from MerSeta said that MerSeta is committed to the WorldSkills competition. She addressed the contestants and confirmed that, with their skill, they will have international career prospects. She thanked the contestants for participating and becoming ambassadors for welding. Adams-Hoffman commended Etienne Nell for his work with the competition as well as Dimitra Kreouzi for all of her hard work.

The judges of the competition included Morris Maroga from Eskom as chief judge, Paul Bruwer from Sasol, Thembinkosi Matyeka who was the winner of the YWOY competition in 2005, Diego Sella from Sassda, Elijah Banda from SAIW and George Walker, an expert aluminum welder.

All the competitors received a cash prize for reaching the finals. The winner of the competition was Houston Isaacs from Afrox who received R 30 000 in prizes for winning all the category prizes (best welder in aluminium, carbon steel and stainless steel) and overall winner. Shandre Janse van Rensburg, from the West Coast College in Vredenburg, was runner up and winner of a R 5 000 cash prize.

Houston did not start the competition with a lot of confidence as he felt that he had strong competitors, but the experience gained from the 2010 competition where he came second pulled him through. He was happy just to be part of the competition again as the last time he entered the competition it changed his life. Having been born in Vredenburg and raised in Saldanhabaai, the competition led to the opportunity for Houston to come to Johannesburg and work for Afrox while qualifying as an international welder. He is excited about going to Germany where he is committed to doing his best in representing South Africa and his dream of travelling overseas is finally coming true. He is also going to visit the Afrox parent company, Linde in Germany, while he is there.

MerSETA sponsorship makes it possible for Houston and Etienne Nell as the South African expert to attend the week-long stay in Germany and participate in all of the activities and ambassadorial duties. WorldSkills is the biggest trade competition in the world, where skilled young people compete in 40 disciplines. Participating professions include traditional trades such as; painters, metal workers, carpenters, florists, tile layers, restaurateurs, web designers and, of course, welders.

In the meantime, Afrox has kindly agreed that Houston can spend the next few months preparing for WorldSkills at SAIW and Etienne Nell and Frans Vorster, the Head of the SAIW practical school, are certain that he will achieve the Medal of Excellence standard.