Despite challenging economic conditions and a dire lack of welding skills, steel welding and fabrication service provider Federal Steel is committed to welding skills development through initiatives that will expand nationally.
Federal Steel MD Phakamile Buthelezi explains that the lack of welding skills is worsened by the lack of accredited learning institutions, as well as an ill-equipped schooling system.
“The lack of skills has reached critical levels, forcing government to embark on a drive to encourage young people to consider careers as artisans and for them to study through the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.”
While government improves TVET, the importing of welding skills from neighbouring countries, such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe, continues, he explains.
To further mitigate the skills gap in South Africa, Federal Steel has created a work environment that enables experienced welders to oversee trainees.
Moreover, Federal Steel welcomes young people for regular visits to its workshops, where they are exposed to the manufacturing processes and the various activities. This includes initiatives involving local schools, where the company shares career information and opportunities with the learners.
Also, as part of its quest to eradicate the shortage of skills, Federal Steel has collaborated with business incubator Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology to form the Enterprise Development Strategy (EDS). The EDS involves developing downstream operators, focusing on those operating in informal settlements, where Federal Steel provides them with skills, market opportunities, project funding and administrative assistance, while formalising their operations.
“The objective is to drive the operators’ business growth, improve their service offering and grow a network of collaborative businesses that support one another. This initiative has allowed our footprint to grow significantly – we are now building networks in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape,” Buthelezi enthuses.
To date, the initiative has benefited close to 20 small to medium-sized operators, involving projects to the value of R5-million monthly. By 2018, the initiative is expected to grow by 60%, he says.
To further grow its national footprint, Federal Steel will partner with Bryanston-based consulting firm Matutu Consulting in 2018.