Nuclear energy research and development company the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) has seen an almost twofold increase in the number of people enrolled in its skills development programme over the past three years.
A total of 480 people enrolled for training at Necsa’s Nuclear Skills Development (NSD) centre this year, up from 250 in 2009.
Necsa spokesperson Chantal Janneker says the company’s role in the NSD centre is to train artisans and technicians for its own nuclear production and maintenance programmes, as well as to support South Africa’s power generation industry.
State-owned power utility Eskom, as well as contractors to Eskom, requires more skilled artisans and technicians throughout the construction of the utility’s new build programme.
Power generation service providers, such as energy solutions provider Alstom, cold storage design and construction company D&B Thermal, structural steel fabricator Cosira and engineering and construction firm Kentz, which are suppliers to Eskom, have enrolled apprentices at the NSD centre for training.
“Eskom and the State realised that there is a vast shortage of skills countrywide, causing delays in the building of new power generation capacity and also defeating the country’s localisation objectives,” says Janneker.
The centre was launched in September 2007 in response to government’s mandate to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014, as well as to support the envis- aged nuclear build programme.
Janneker adds that training of the youth to meet the skills shortage has been ongoing since 2007.
The NSD centre trains artisans and technicians in the mechanical and electrical engineering fields and in fabrication, such as fitting and turning, pipe fitting and tool making, heavy current electrical, welding, boilermaking, rigging and steel erecting, besides others.
Trade testing of artisans is also conducted at the NSD Decen-tralised Trade Test Centre on Necsa’s premises at Pelindaba, west of Pretoria.
The NSD centre has full accreditation with the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority.
The duration of the skills development programmes vary between 27 weeks and 32 weeks, depending on the programme. After completion of the theoretical training, apprentices are placed in on-the-job training programmes for a further 80 weeks at the client’s premises, as well as at Necsa.
Besides the NSD programme, the need for technical skills has also been dealt with through pro- grammes such as the Joint Initi- ative on Priority Skills Acquisi- tion, the National Skills Accord and the Artisan Development Programme, driven by the State and industrial role-players, includ- ing State-owned enterprises like Eskom.
Meanwhile, the NSD is involved in other programmes, such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa’s training projects, which provide local municipalities and governmental sectors with artisans to strengthen their technical capabilities and service delivery. The Department of Public Works’ job creation initia- tives to supply the Northern Cape with technically skilled youth is also supported by the NSD centre.