The Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) has been appointed by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to act as the consultants in the welding aspect of the Centres of Specialisation programme.
Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor outlined in March that the programme would address the demand for priority trades needed for the implementation of government’s National Development Plan generally, but particularly its National Infrastructure Plan; and to contribute towards the building of capacity for its Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college system to deliver trade qualifications with employer partners.
The programme aims to do this by focusing on the development of 13 priority trades, identified as being in strong demand for the infrastructure programme, as well as on other strategic programmes, such as the War on Leaks and the new Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy programme.
The programme has enabled the SAIW to work closely with DHET to set up an occupational team that selected two TVET colleges that will represent the welding sector, which will launch the new registered occupational qualification using the dual system approach. “This new system is based on theoretical and practical training at a TVET college combined with workplace learning, forming a total integrated style of learning,” says SAIW business development manager Etienne Nell, who is also the occupational team convenor.
The occupational team comprises Nell; an adviser from West Coast TVET college; an industry training provider represented by construction and maintenance service provider Steinmuller; the trade testing body National Artisanal Moderation Body, represented by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation; and chemicals company Sasol, representing industry. These activities were also overseen by the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (Chieta), which has been recognised as the lead sector education and training authority in this initiative.
After a stringent selection criterion, the Boland TVET College in Worcester, in the Western Cape, and the East Midlands TVET College in Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape, were chosen. The colleges were selected after their current infrastructure was critiqued, and suggestions were made to improve their facilities to align with internationally recognised standards. The selection team also considered the qualifications of facilitators at the colleges and what they might further require to help them in implementing the new dual system.
“The team visited companies expressing interest to become actively involved in this training initiative by offering apprenticeship contacts to potential candidates in the surrounding areas. “The dual system approach is based on placing the employers back in the driving seat, with them ‘owning’ the apprentice, therefore, assuring the theoretical and practical component of training at the college meets both the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) curriculum and the requirements of the welding industry, and then finally providing the required 70% of the workplace learning at the workplace.”
The Centres of Specialisation programme will enable South African welders to be capable of using all four welding processes, in all welding positions and to be competent to weld all three material groups, therefore, meeting international standards. “This qualification will then further empower them to specialise in the more advanced future skills areas of welding, for example, robotic welding,” says Nell.
Apprentices would be appointed on three-year apprenticeship contracts by potential employers who would then have the apprentices undergo both the theoretical and simulated practical training at the TVET College, based on a mutually agreed training programme, and then undergo training at the workplace, the quality of which would be overseen by a qualified artisan employed by the fabricator.
Nell has also been actively involved in developing the new registered QCTO curriculum document and is also involved with the development of the new trade test to be used when the first intake of apprentices is ready to undergo these tests. Chieta has ringfenced 60 apprenticeship grants for these two selected colleges, and we are currently seeking employers to become part of this exciting government initiative. The SAIW has also embarked on a similar programme seeking employers in the Gauteng area to take up apprentices and using the SAIW to provide the theoretical and practical training.
SAIW director Sean Blake says the programme will help curb some of industry’s underlying problems. “There is a fear of change in the industry, which needs to be addressed by companies employing welders. It has, for many years, been the industry norm to run with a standard internship, and companies do not see that there could actually be financial gain for them when they take on the dual system approach of training welders.”
Blake says a good skills set, local labour and government’s investment in industry will allow the welding fabrication industry to bridge the skills gap.
Nell and Blake hope for a continued partnership with DHET: “The opportunity to assist DHET with the process, and consult on such a senior level has not only heightened SAIW’s drive to improve the industry but also its hopes of eventually being selected as the quality custodian for the industry,” Blake points out.