The Southern Africa Stainless Steel Development Association (Sassda) has launched a bursary scheme, which aims to bridge the country’s skills gap.
Sassda chairperson Sampie van Rooyen says that despite the economic downturn and the subsequent rise in unemployment, there is still a shortage of trained, skilled artisans. This has resulted in the association investing significantly in education and skills development.
The Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition, which is a government initiative to develop the skills that are most urgently needed, points out in its 2008 annual report that, to meet the skills shortfall, 50 000 artisans need to be trained by 2010.
Sassda MD Tim Raaff explains that Sassda’s bursary scheme was launched late last year. He adds that the association aims to train artisans and will, in future, focus on developing graduates in professions related to stainless steel.
The trustees of the bursary scheme will select the best applicants and will award performance-linked bursaries for the duration of their studies.
Sassda’s bursaries will be provided to students who are currently studying or looking to study in artisan training programmes for welders, boilermakers, sheet metal workers, fitters and turners, and millwrights, besides others.
Twenty bursars will be selected for the scheme, which will comprise five bursars each from Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The first intake will be in June, and further intakes will be in January and June 2010.
These bursars will attend accredited public Further Education and Training colleges to study towards a national certificate in fitting and machining, or engineering and related design. These qualifications are recognised as part of the new National Certificate Vocational Programme, which provides Grade 9 learners a vocational alter- native to an academic Grade 10 to Grade 12, by offering industry-focused training.
Meanwhile, the Services Sector Education and Training Authority has appointed Sassda as an independent service provider to assist in the implementation of the Artisan Aide project, which provides funding for artisan training. This appointment has provided Sassda with a grant to train 25 candidates in welding, fitting and turning, milling and boilermaking, by February 2010.
Van Rooyen says that the association will be sourcing employed individuals from its member base to be part of the project. Unemployed individuals are also eligible to participate, and individuals will be able to obtain their trade test and qualification in a year.
Meanwhile, Sassda has trained 600 people through its own training programme, and aims to train a further 900 people this year.
“The stainless steel industry, which has a large artisan skills requirement, will become an important part of adding value to industry by offering technicians opportunities to develop skills,” concludes Van Rooyen.