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Dec 16, 2011

New welding school aims to produce skilled artisans

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Construction group Aveng Grinaker-LTA has unveiled its first response to the National Development Plan’s call for all sectors of society to mobilise around a national vision to create 11-million jobs by 2030 by investing in a new welding school, located at its Vanderbijlpark premises. The school is aimed at dealing with the critical skills shortage in the welding discipline and eliminating the need to import these skills.

Aveng Grinaker-LTA MD Grahame McCaig said: “There is currently a dire shortage of skills in South Africa’s mechanical and piping construction industry, and we are forecasting a further significant deficit of skills in this field. The skills shortage in the welding discipline is currently the most pressing issue. Further, we are facing low levels of productivity and the quality of the welding output needs to be improved.”

McCaig added that this forecast was based on future capital projects planned for South Africa, including State-owned power utility Eskom’s coal-fired power plants, nuclear projects, petrochemicals giant Sasol’s upgrades and environmental projects, national oil company PetroSA’s Mthombo refinery and various mining plants.

Being one of the largest mechanical construction companies working in the oil and gas sector in South Africa, the company was driven by the current skills deficit as a factor in its decision to open a 50-training-bay welding school, besides other reasons. Its initial target is to train 300 pipe-coded welders.

McCaig told Engineering News that there was a need to improve the skills of welders as well as their productivity and effi- ciency, and to ensure that they adhered to the safety standards of the industry.

“The programme will start at the end of January 2012 and there are two courses offered: one for new intakes and the other for company employees already identified as having the basic skills and needing to qualify and improve their welding skills. New entrants will be new employees coming into the company as trainees,” said McCaig.

Also speaking at the opening ceremony of the welding school, South African petrochemi- cals group Sasol Synfuels MD Stephan Schoeman told Engineering News that the company spends significant sums of money on projects each year and it intends to spend about R40-billion over the next three years.

McCaig argued that skills transfer and training should be a collective effort from industry roleplayers as, in the long term, it would affect the quality of skilled personnel working on signifi- cant projects and also encourage a culture of skills training in future.

Aveng Grinaker-LTA’s Vanderbijlpark facility boasts a pipe spool fabrication shop which, McCaig said, makes it the ideal place to train welders. “

We seek to replicate the training model used in areas such as Saldanha, where we are currently establishing a pressure vessel manufacturing facility with process equipment manufacturer KNM, of Malaysia, as well as Coega, Durban, Witbank and Lephalale, within close proximity to Eskom’s Medupi coal-fired power station,” he said.

The initial focus of the new school is the welding trade. Going forward, Aveng Grinaker-LTA is looking to go into partnership with indus- try and government to enable the extension of training to other trades, such as boilermaking, pipe fitting, rigging and electrical.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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