The Southern Africa Stainless Steel Development Association (Sassda) plans to introduce elearning courses to make its training and skills development programmes more accessible to industry, association skills development manager Mankabe More tells Engineering News.
She points out that Sassda continuously assesses and aligns its education, skills development and awareness programme to cater for developments in the market, as well as the needs of its members.
“As an industry, we need to develop as technology develops and make use of opportunities, such as the Internet, which can provide easy access to members and help the stainless steel industry increase its reach to bridge the skills gap in South Africa,” she says.
The association is currently seeking a suitable service provider to roll out the programme.
The elearning programme will offer the same courses that Sassda is currently offering, in addition to a beginner’s course that caters for nontechnically orientated individuals in the stainless steel industry.
The association’s courses are aimed mostly at individuals who are technically orientated and there is a need for those who are not technically orientated to access basic knowledge and information about the stainless steel industry.
Meanwhile, More says the local stainless steel industry is faced with the same skills challenges as those facing the broader South African industry.
The association is currently liaising with organisations such as the South African Institute of Welding (SAIW) to identify ways of bridging this gap. The SAIW aims to increase and improve skills in the fabrication sector, which provides a range of products and services to all industries in South Africa.
Further, More states that while training is available for those who wish to pursue a career in the stainless steel industry, Sassda would like to expand its skills development offering to cover more disciplines at education and training institutions in South Africa.
Challenges in education range from nationwide issues, such as poor maths and science education at school level, to industry-specific issues, such as limited exposure to the stainless steel industry at further education and training institutions.
The decline in certain manufacturing sectors in the local market, such as consumer- ware, means that experienced and highly skilled labour is lost and difficult to replace, says More.
Sassda realises that it needs to implement an ongoing drive to ensure that its education and training programmes are relevant to today’s world. It also needs to ensure that its programmes are known and are made available to the applicable education and training institutions.
The association implemented its comprehensive education, skills development and awareness programme in the 1970s, soon after its inception, and the programme has since grown and expanded to meet the needs of the stainless steel industry, states More.
“Last year, more than a 130 employed learners and over 200 university students attended Sassda’s courses, which shows that there is still a great demand in the market for the Sassda programmes,” she adds.
The association’s skills and training programme includes standard courses such as fabrication, applications and the use of stainless steel; skills upgrading with regard to stainless steel welding and fabrication; stainless steel awareness, which includes focused presentations, industry orientation, tertiary institution projects and school projects; and stainless steel education at tertiary institutions.
“The association’s education and training programme has been successful in creating awareness about the stainless steel industry among the youth.”
Education, training and skills development are an absolute necessity to ensure that the stainless steel industry becomes competitive locally and internationally, says More.