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Sep 12, 2008

Welding skills develop to combat skills shortage

Construction|Engineering|Africa|Components|Education|Engines|Export|Mining|rail|Simulator|Stainless Steel|Technology|Testing|Training|Welding|Africa|Automotive|Manufacturing|Products|Steel
Construction|Engineering|Africa|Components|Education|Engines|Export|Mining|rail|Simulator|Stainless Steel|Technology|Testing|Training|Welding|Africa|Automotive|Manufacturing|Products|Steel
© Reuse this The Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) is developing skills of welders and welding practitioners across South Africa to combat the severe skills shortage in the country says SAIW president and University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) chemical and metallurgical engineering Professor Andreas Koursaris.

He says the institute has been running a welding engineering course in partnership with Wits, which has trained more than 70 engineers over the past 12 years. The course is accredited by the International Institute of Welding (IIW), and enables graduates to write the IIW examinations to qualify as international welding engineers (IWE).

Koursaris says the institute is planning to implement a scheme whereby the students participating in the welding engineering course, can simultaneously qualify for their welding engineering degree and IWE status. Students are currently required to write two separate examinations, but he says the two may be combined into a single set of examinations in the future.

He says many more welding engineers and practitioners are required in South Africa in order to meet the needs of industry. Qualified welding engineers are also key to the successful tendering of the country's local construction industries abroad.

The majority of SAIW trainees are sponsored by their employers, which send them to the institute for education and training. The institute is working on offering an additional welding technology course to fill a gap in industry requirements.

Koursaris says that the institute, which celebrated its sixtieth anniversary this year, has experienced steady growth. He says the SAIW has facilitated many conferences and training sessions, training over 10 000 welding practitioners over the years, including welders, welding inspectors, nondestructive testing personnel, and other specialists in the welding field.

Koursaris says the SAIW is not the only body in South Africa that provides training. There are many other entities offering training in welding, but the SAIW has a broader national interest and trains personnel to recognised standards.

Koursaris believes that the manufacturing capabilities of South African industry need to be improved to increase job creation. He views manufacturing as core to generating jobs, but says that this is only one aspect of the welding industry. Welding is involved in the manufacture of a wide range of products, from large products, such as automobiles, automotive components and rail cars, to smaller objects, such as food and beverage cans.

Most industries involve welding. Koursaris explains that furniture, machines, engines, bridges, buildings, ships, tanks, automotives and aeroplanes all require welding in the manufacturing process.

Koursaris explains that by exporting finished products, such as automotives and refrigerators, more jobs will be created, as different manufacturing industries require skills and the manufacturing process requires many workers. He says that the mining and exporting of ores, alloys and other primary products requires fewer workers than beneficiation of products does.

"My personal passion is for manufacturing and the job creation opportunities it offers. We need to add value all the way to finished product, if possible, and then export the final product. Exporting raw material does not create jobs," says Koursaris.

New Trends
The welding industry is constantly growing and advancing. Koursaris says new trends in the industry were showcased at the sixtieth assembly of the IIW held in Austria in July. He says that the assembly showcased the use of robotics and computer technology to train welders, adding that this will become more popular. South Africa uses robotics to a degree, in the automotive industry in particular, but there are other areas where it can also be applied.

Koursaris says the use of computers and simulators to train welders in the same technique as simulator pilot training and will be used more extensively in future welding training. He says these simulation activities and programmes are becoming increasingly important, as welders can now be trained quickly and accurately, with machines recording one's actions and supplying feedback. These programmes are still in their infancy, but Koursaris predicts that the industry will use them increasingly in the future.

Koursaris explains that welding is not a simple process and involves conformance with standards and codes, which are becoming more entrenched in Sub-Saharan African countries with the help of the SAIW.

Although SAIW's Johannesburg premises house the organisation's head office, the institute also operates in Cape Town and Durban, and collaborates with the Nigerian and Zambian Institutes of Welding. Koursaris says the SAIW is attempting to spread its influence further north into Sub-Saharan Africa to promote welding in these countries. He comments that, while this has been a relatively slow process, the initiative has been progressively successful.

Earlier this year, the SAIW ran a conference to celebrate its sixtieth birthday, which attracted local and foreign speakers and experts. Over the years the institute has invited many experts from abroad to speak on different topics, particularly in the field of stainless steel and fatigue of welded structures.

"The SAIW has a vested interest in the promotion of the art and the science of welding on a national level. The institute is committed to improving the level of education and skills in the welding industry on an ongoing basis into the foreseeable future," says Koursaris.

Koursaris, who has recently entered his second term as SAIW president, concludes that the institute has had two successful and productive years, and he expects this trend to continue into the future.

"In line with national interests, the institute will continue educating and training welding personnel to high standards. It will also broaden and deepen its certification scheme activities in the interests of the industry to internationally recognised standards," concludes Koursaris.

Edited by: Laura Tyrer
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
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