Learnership programmes, where artisans in training work under a qualified and registered electrician, must effectively supplement formal artisan training by providing practical experience underpinned by the official quality and safety standards, says accredited electrician training centre P&T Technology MD Nick du Plessis.
Learners should be placed on a rotating schedule in which they alternate between formal training at a training centre and regu- larly experience the practical elements of the profession under a registered electrician. This will ensure that the electricians who take learners for practical training never have a sudden shortage or glut of learners, and are assured of a set standard of technical knowledge among learners on practical training.
“We need the skills. There is a shortage of these skills in South Africa, but we must also ensure learners are given good foundations of technical and formal training, and are then given practical training under a registered professional, all within the safety and quality ambit of the codes of good practice, specifically the South African National Standard (SANS) 10142-1 Wiring Code,” he says.
“However, the efficiency of training must improve for us to [produce] the skills that the country needs. For effective skills transfers and to accelerate artisan training, we should send the learners to companies with qualified electricians who are able to transfer skills to new trainee artisans.
To ensure qualified electricians, special attention must be given to training according to quality and safety standards, he says.
“During their first days, we present learners with the SANS 10142-1 Wiring Code, which stipulates certain mandatory practices with regard to quality and safety. The first-year students must determine the size of conduits they must use, which depends on the size of the wires, besides other basics, according to the Wiring Code. In the second year, the students must determine what must be done, according to the code, when presented with a house diagram,” notes Du Plessis.
A registered human resource practitioner and master installation electrician by trade, Du Plessis highlights that fault finding is a critically important skill for electricians, especially in industry. This is why the P&T Technology centre contains simulators that have inherent faults built in to ascertain the depth of a trainee’s understanding of SANS rules and whether he or she can work safely, mindful of how his or her work may affect the certificate of compliance for a facility.
P&T Technology trains student electricians from National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 2 to NQF Level 4, has single-phase and three-phase work and testing stations and boasts an access-controlled, secure trade testing facility where tests are recorded by cameras for proof of a qualified electrician’s capabilities.
The company uses computer laboratories at its centre to distribute learning materials and teach skills, and competence tests in the practical application of skills are carried out at workstations. The company has seven training officers on site.
“We give weekly reports to employers on the progress of trainees and we have a learner management system that tracks their progress and their professional records. We train and assess unit standards as required by people applying to the Department of Labour for the wireman’s licence. We are also a decentralised trade test centre and conduct trade tests for the Chemical Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta), the Energy Seta and the Construction Seta,” he adds.
P&T Technology trains artisans in 14-week blocks three times a year, for a period of about three years.
“The focus is on implementing skills development in the work environment, because the return on investment for training is long term. Bear in mind that if one trains artisans effectively, one can save money, partly by tapping discretionary or mandatory grants – up to 70% of training fees – from the relevant Seta, and one will improve productivity and increase the qualified skills available to the company and its clients,” concludes Du Plessis.