“The last 20 years has seen a steady decline in the availability of skilled personnel in the steel construction industry, particularly draughtspersons trained specifically in steel detailing,” says the SAISC’s Spencer Erling, who has been instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.
“Before the commencement of the current boom two years ago, the steel construction industry had been in decline for at least 18 to 20 years and, as a result, the industry did little specialist training in draughting. Other more generic courses were available, but did not provide specifically for the steel construction industry. “The problem became, and remains, severe,” says Erling.
In response to this challenge, the SAISC set in motion the initiative to make a specialist school a reality. The process began by developing a course outline which, after 18 months of negotiation, was certified by the South African Qualification Authority. At a later stage, the course was registered as a learnership with the Department of Labour.
To complete the process, the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA) required that comprehensive course material be developed. The course material was achieved after two years at a cost of about R1,8-million. Half of this amount was provided by the SAISC and the other half by the CETA.
The next step was to actually to set up a training school and training staff. DSE provided the solution to the premises issue.
“Owing to DSE’s significant planned expansion, the company needs to train at least six draughts-persons a year. This was the impetus for DSE to contribute 40% of the funding required for the training centre and to also make available space at its head office in Steeldale for training purposes,” explains Erling.
“The SAISC will contribute 20% towards the centre, and has approached players in the industry to provide the remaining 40%. Further revenue will be realised through the fees for training to the general industry,” says Erling.
South African draughtsperson Howard Fox has been appointed to conduct the training. Other qualified engineers, including Erling, will conduct specific sections of the course.
Erling notes that the draughting school will ultimately belong to the industry. It will have a board of directors, with members from the SAISC, DSE and from industry, as well as an executive committee. Erling says that the SAISC is committed to making this a broadbased black economic-empower-ment initiative to help previously disadvantaged students “cross the technical divide”.
The entry-level requirement for the course is Grade 12 with standard grade maths. Science would be an advantage, but is not considered essential. “Initially, a full programme will be conducted for school leavers with no other technical training, leading to a diploma qualification. Other programmes will follow that will recognise prior learning, allow- ing existing draughtspersons to obtain a diploma,” says Erling.
“We are very buoyant about this initiative, and judging by the enthusiasm of the industry at large about its prospects, I have no doubt that it will go a long way in obviating what is clearly a challenge in our industry right now,” concludes Erling.