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May 16, 2008

Aluminium extrusion company tackles the skills challenge

© Reuse this In an effort to alleviate the massive skills shortage in the alumi- nium fabrication sector, alumi-nium extrusion company Wispeco Aluminium has invested over R1,2-million in a project called the SpazaAL, aimed at developing young black entrepreneurs.

The development of these SpazaAL businesses will allow young black entrepreneurs to develop their fabrication and installation businesses and products, such as aluminium windows, doors, patio doors and showers.

The SpazaAL project provides ready-made workshops for the young beneficiaries, in the form of containers, fitted with racks, shelving, special paint, ventilation and a safe, from which they can operate their business.

These containers are also complemented by power tools, specialised equipment, a generator, and marketing material. Six of the ten businesses have also been provided with vehicles to make their daily operations easier.

The project not only centres on black economic empowerment, but also on disabled people, with nine deaf students having entered into this year’s learnership.

Wispeco MD Herman Rolfes tells Engineering News that the project is aimed at developing aluminium in the rural areas, where steel has traditionally been the dominant window material. The project was inspired by visits to China and other countries in Africa, where similar businesses are in operation.

Rolfes says that the skills shortage in South Africa is hindering the growth of the aluminium fabrication industry.

“Our goal is to provide technical, aluminium fabrication and entrepreneurial training to young people in disadvantaged communities, and develop them into young entrepreneurs. We simply want this ‘brain drain’ to stop through the empower- ment of small business,” comments Rolfes.

He adds that the South African aluminium fabrication market has great potential.

“In South Africa, we have 1,2 kg of aluminium extrusions per capita, and in the developed countries it is averaging between 4 kg and 5 kg. We can achieve what developing countries are currently producing through the development of the downstream fabrication industry,” he says.

Nonprofit organisation Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology (Dact) will focus on incubation and the mentoring and coaching of trainees, and help them to further develop their entrepreneurial skills, while Wispeco has been involved in providing the technical skills.

Dact CEO Ella Grobelaar says that the skills shortage is not only being felt in the aluminium fabrication sector, but also in the broader aluminium industry. She adds that government, together with the new venture leanership with Merseta, would address this challenge.

Patricia Khumalo, a member of the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality mayoral committee, tells Engineering News that much effort is being made by government to tackle the skills challenge. She says that local government welcomes initiatives such as that supported by Wispeco.


Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
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