Looking at the practicalities of training amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant financial fallout, the Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) management team has visited a substantial number of its members and clients in the first three months of this year.
During these meetings, it has become clear that many of its fabricator members have reduced the number of employees and that it has therefore become exceedingly difficult to release an employee to attend a course.
Owing to the altered socioeconomic lives of all South Africans, 2021 will continue to be a year of innovation for SAIW, dedicated to furthering standards in welding fabrication and related technologies.
SAIW has taken a long, hard look at its current courses and come up with a revitalised offering that has been designed with its students at the centre of everything it does.
“To be completely honest, we are sometimes seen as having a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude and our courses are often considered unaffordable. As a result, we have taken a long hard look at how we operate and reimagined who we are and how we do things,” says SAIW executive director John Tarboton.
He adds that SAIW also has a dedicated student liaison officer who is an experienced SAIW staff member and can provide detailed information and advice on career choices and how students can attain their goals and aspirations through the upskilling that SAIW offers.
“Some students have even had to request refunds for courses that they had paid for because they were denied time off from work. This is purely because employers have retrenched staff and cannot afford to give students extensive time off work, even if the course is funded by the employee. There is thus also a demand for after-hours virtual courses accompanied by physical or virtual sessions on Saturdays and other practical components and interactions such as tutorials which require a physical presence,” Tarboton comments.
Flexible & Cost Effective
The SAIW’s new modular approach will give employers the flexibility to train people when their workload allows and a course could be completed over, say, two years.
Modules will typically be one week and after each module, a class test will be written, and the module can be ‘banked’. The student can then complete the next module when finances or workloads in the student’s place of work allow.
In the past, the smaller modules were also often presented at a fabricator’s facilities on a particular topic that was relevant to their needs. Ultimately, all the courses will be modularised to give this flexibility and to allow customisation of courses where desirable.
A student-centric, flexible approach has also been applied to the payment of courses where the SAIW now offers long-term payment options via online revolving credit service Mobicred.
This will be followed by the physical checking of their application to confirm various acceptance requirements They will then be emailed a quotation followed by payment using one of a variety of options including an immediate EFT, credit card or a longer term Mobicred instalment plan.
This means that, instead of the student having to save up R47 520, for example, to attend a Level 1 Inspectors Course, they could opt to do the first module at a cost of R11 880 and then split this payment into budget-friendly instalments and attend the first module as soon as the first instalment is paid.
The Covid-19 lockdown last year allowed SAIW to realise an opportunity to offer virtual training when the course content allowed. This has been well received by its members and students as a way of reducing travel, accommodation and related costs, particularly for those from out of town. In addition, this would allow employees to be at work and to attend online courses for those days that are all theory. One day’s training at the SAIW is normally from 08:30 to 15:00, with the option of virtual attendance.
In addition to a revamp of its training courses, the SAIW’s non-destructive testing operations have also been improved, with excellent attendance at its current Level 3 course, drawing in students from across the continent. This has been accompanied by the launch of a weekly webinar ‘highlights package’ for students wanting to enrol in the next Level 3 course in August 2021.
“We are also becoming a catalyst for enabling the welding sector to move into the next industrial revolution with the re-launch of our Robotic Welding course. This will be underpinned by a memorandum of understanding with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Fourth Industrial Revolution unit and SAIW will also be assisting them with the development of exciting new Apps to enhance welder training and quality assurance,” says Tarboton.
Overall, SAIW is expanding its role as a world-class training provider in welding and related technologies to developing the country’s national welding capability. In line with this, the introduction of SAIW’s new modular courses is designed to make career development easier by improving course affordability and access.