Welding equipment supplier African Oxygen’s (Afrox’s) sponsorship of the Southern Africa Stainless Steel Development Association (Sassda) Columbus Stainless Steel Awards 2016 Student category is part of its commitment to promote the welding industry and to encourage the youth to consider this as a recognised profession at a time that South Africa is faced with high unemployment rates, says Afrox manufacturing industries business manager Johann Pieterse.
“Welding as a career needs to be promoted to young people in South Africa and business needs to take the lead. Welding is involved in most steel manufacturing applications in South Africa today which makes it a critical skill,” he adds.
Pieterse says, currently, South Africa continues to struggle with a shortage of young people training to qualify as welders.
He explains that Afrox is committed to investing in the education of young people with an emphasis on welding.
“Qualified welders today can command good salaries and, owing to the current shortages, it provides attractive job creation. Welding is only a start, as many careers such as welding inspectors, coordinators, management, sales and engineering develop from welding,” says Pieterse.
He explains that at the 2014 Stainless Steel Awards, Jaco van Deventer received the Afrox-sponsored trophy for welding in the Student category.
Van Deventer is now a welding training instructor with engineering firm Steinmüller, a member of the Billfinger Group.
“The best way for young people to get into welding is through an apprenticeship, which is how I started out my career. The hours are normal working hours for the most part and the pay is good,” Van Deventer adds.
According to Van Deventer – a former winner of the local welding industry’s Young Welder of the Year competition and World Skills Competition that was held in Sao Paulo in 2015 – there are many apprenticeships available with companies but intakes tend to be only once a year.
He advises that more information is available from the Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW).
SAIW is currently working with government organisations, such as the South African Qualifications Authority and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, to further develop its courses so that these are aligned with local requirements and international standards.
Pieterse says that developing skills across industries will play a key role in developing South Africa’s economy and creating welding artisans locally will increase opportunities within the country’s workforce.
Afrox launched its first tertiary welding facility at the community house building training centre in Soshanguve in partnership with nonprofit organisation PopUp. PopUp has a holistic approach to the upliftment of those in underprivileged communities through its programme.
“The aim of the facility is to support various technical upskilling programmes, with an emphasis on welding as an in-demand route to a sustainable career,” explains Pieterse.
He says it will be supported by Afrox’s developed training programmes that are focused on skills development and will contribute to a formal qualification.
“Going forward, we will establish continuity by training instructors and partnering with like-minded organisations, such as SAIW, to ensure that we continue to develop welders trained to international welding standards, creating jobs,” he adds.
Afrox has partnered with the Department of Education, supporting its technical school recapitalisation programme in the form of mechanical technology. The Afrox-supported strategy is focused on demothballing welding facilities, equipping them with advanced technology equipment and upskilling educators to facilitate training.
Afrox has to date upgraded and equipped 14 technical schools nationally, trained more than 40 teachers in the four main welding processes and communicated the importance of technical skills qualifications at selected launches in the major provinces.