The development of a pilot foundry qualification by the industry-led, government-funded National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN) is progressing well, the organisation reports.
In addition to developing a curriculum in support of occupational profiles, it has also negotiated the process of registering the qualifications and unit standards on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) with the South African Qualifications Authority, the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations and the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Merseta). This process started in October 2008 and was completed in December 2009.
The NFTN has undertaken the redesign and registration of the draft series of foundry qualifications known as Foundry Operations at NQF levels 2 to 4, developed three occupational profiles, those of melter, pattern maker and caster, to match existing qualifications in specific foundry trades and created a learning pathway framework focusing on NQF levels 2 to 4.
In August 2010, the first 18 learners were enrolled in the three-year learning pathway programme, enabling their training either as melters, moulders or patternmakers.
“These three areas are the core processes of the foundry industry. If the programme can be extensively expanded, it will affect many areas of the industry, such as reducing the scrap rate and reducing the need for fettling,” says NFTN project leader Adrie El Mohamadi.
Merseta approved the funding of the learnerships as part of the pilot qualification process and the 18 learners completed the first half year for NQF level 2 at ArcelorMittal’s foundry operation, which is one of the pilot sites selected and approved by industry in December 2010.
Other pilot sites to be used during the programme include Atlantis Foundries, in the Western Cape, and premises owned by Scaw Metals at Union Junction, in Germiston.
Trade-specific learning at the three sites started in January, with the first NQF level 2 learnership to be completed between July and August this year.
The NFTN, the South African Institute of Foundrymen (Saif), the Aluminium Feder-ation of South Africa, key industry representatives and Merseta collaborated on the development of the learning material for the NQF level 2 qualification.
“The NFTN has also contracted Saif to manage a skills programme within the foundry industry. Apart from the 18 learners in the pilot programme, employees within the industry have also been trained through a number of skills initiatives,” says El Mohamadi.
She adds that these training programmes include the Western Cape Institute of Foundrymen (WCIF) training material, used in the province for a number of years to train employees on shop-floor level and now being used in Gauteng.
In 2010, the WCIF trained 70 workers and Saif trained 120 workers.
Meanwhile, the NFTN plans to recruit school leavers, who would enter the foundry industry through the learnership programme, at the beginning of next year.
School leaners need information about the opportunities that the foundry industry can offer. “This is an area that we have to seriously look at,” says El Mohamadi.
“We would also like to see if we can bring influence to bear at the time when students have to choose whether they would like to specialise in physical or extractive metallurgy,” she adds.
Further, the NFTN points out that business and management skills remain a challenge in the industry, but says this is being addressed through courses offered by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The NFTN is currently in the process of renewing the management training agreement with the IDC and is considering a possible expansion of the mandate.