A fast-track programme to increase the skills capacity demand within the steel construction industry, is starting to produce good results, says structural and architectural steel fabricator Tass Engineering MD Tim Tasioulas.
The course is designed to be an in-house, fast-track, skills importing programme, which emphasises the practical over the theoretical.
Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) education director Spencer Erling prepared and collated all the material for the Structural Steel Assemblers training course. He says the course will enable workers to become partially trained artisans in a much shorter time than the current apprenticeship programme.
Tass Engineering conducted the pilot phase of this course at the beginning of this year. Trainees receive on-the-job training, and participate in theoretical classes once a week for two hours. The first hour of training is paid for by the company, and the second hour is at the learners' expense.
The course comprises two phases. The first phase covers the correct use of machines and hand tools found in a typical fabrication workshop. The second phase is a step-by-step course on how to build the different components used in structural steel projects such as floor beams, roof trusses or similar components. The programme complies in many instances with the Metals and Engineering Industries Training Board, says Tass Engineering production director Henk Van Eden.
The course was designed to help lower-skilled workers, who do not meet the full requirements for an apprenticeship in the industry, to become recognised skilled workers within the industry.
Van Eden says that the three-to-four year period required for a learner to complete an apprenticeship is too long. This course will be completed over 40 weeks for each phase. "The course prepared by Erling is concise, easily understood and with strong visual elements, that make it very accessible. There are a number of written and practical tests that run throughout the two phases of the training, as well as a practical test at the end of each phase," he explains.
Erling comments, "The SAISC is pleased with the achievements of the training course to date. At the end of the second phase, successful candidates will have reached a proficiency that employers in the steel construction industry will acknowledge and trust. This will ensure mobility within the industry for the workers, as well."
The course has since been adopted by two companies in Gauteng and it will be launched, through the SAISC, in Durban, in November.
Currently, the programme is not officially certified by any recognised qualification authority, and trainees will receive a company certificate on completion of phase two.
Van Eden adds, "The overall quality standard of the course will be overseen by the SAISC. The course can be modified and adapted for specific training areas required within a company."
Tass Engineering won two awards at the annual South African Institute of SAISC Steel Awards in September. "The awards highlight the company's ability as a versatile fabricator, in the structural as well as the architectural aspects of steel fabrication," says Tasioulas.
The company was awarded the Engineering and Bridge Structures award for its work on the central terminal building road bridge upgrade at the OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng.
The bridge was erected in two phases, enabling an uninterrupted traffic flow along the main arterial terminal access road during construction.
The connection between the first phase and the second phase of the bridge required full penetration sitewelding using prequalified weld procedures, qualified welders and stringent non destructive testing on all the welds.
All welds were carried out in accordance with the American Welding Society D1.1 structural welding specifications, which ensured that an extremely high quality and strength of was achieved.
The project started in August 2006 and was completed at the end of 2007. The value of the project was about R18-million. The structural steel used for this project was 800 t.
The second award was in the Architectural Structures category for the company's Turbine Square project in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Tass Engineering technical director Marten Spencer says, "This was a renovation project. The old power station structure and exterior facade, with all its original steel structures had to be retained, including the coal hoppers, the turbine hall, the crane beams and all of the riveted construction work.
"The old steel work is held together with old-fashioned rivet connections, which had to be mimicked in the new steelwork additions. Artificially riveted connections and pins had to be incorporated into the steelwork to retain the old aesthetics. The new steelwork follows the same lines and is as visually exposed as the old work. The structure has been turned into an A-grade office structure."
The project, valued at about R3-million, started in March 2007 and was completed at the end of November 2007.
Tass Engineering was nominated for five other projects for the SAISC awards. The company was nominated and short listed in the tubular category for the Growthpoint Industrial Park gatehouse, and in the engineering and bridge structures category for its work on the extension at 22 Fredman drive. Besides its winning submission in the architectural structures category, it was also nominated for work on the Montecasino Theatre, and short listed for the Cedar Square shopping centre in Fourways and the First National Bank head office structure in Fairlands.
Tass Engineering is currently involved with projects for water and waste-treatment company VWS Envig South Africa, civil engineering and construction firm Radon Projects and the Bombela Civils Joint Venture on the Gautrain project.
On the VWS project, Tass Engineering is busy with structural steelworks for the ammonium sulphate bulk storage building, at the Ambatovy nickel mine in Madagascar. The project, valued at about R32-million, started in April this year and is scheduled for completion by the end of November. The structural steel required for the project is 670 t.
For Radon Projects, the company is building a full workshop, tyre repair, fitment and washbay for the large dump trucks at diversified miner BHP Billiton's Klipspruit coal mine in Ogies. The project, valued at about R26,65-million, started at the beginning of April and is scheduled for completion by April 2009. The structural steel required for the project is 660 t.
On the Gautrain, Tass Engineering is busy with aesthetic architectural steelworks at the Marlboro, Ortia and Rhodesfield stations. The project, valued at about R29,5-million, started at the beginning of October and is scheduled for completion in July 2009. The structural steel required for the project is 600 t.