LIGHT IN THE DARK SAIW is a good position to replenish some of its reserves following the impact of Covid
Despite many industries being significantly impacted by the pandemic, the Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) used the pandemic period as an opportunity to restructure and enhance itself as well as its offerings.
Moving out of the pandemic, the SAIW is set to provide an improved experience to its students and clients.
Difficulties experienced in various industries in recent years have resulted in the SAIW seeing reduced demand for training. SAIW executive director John Tarboton explains that the pandemic had a significant negative impact on the economy which has since been compounded by the war in Ukraine, increasing oil prices and the increasing inflation rate which has subsequently impacted the money people have available for training.
To manage the reduced demand and challenges, the SAIW had to restructure the institution, with 2022 to date seeing an improvement in growth of 20% on last year.
Tarboton adds that as part of the restructure, the SAIW had to retrench a number of staff as well as close its offices in Durban and Cape Town. However, the SAIW will continue to offer courses in Durban and Cape Town as required.
Depending on the number of students interested in a particular course, the institute will hire adequate venues in order to continue offering training in key areas across South Africa, including Secunda and Middelburg.
Further, owing to restrictions throughout the various lockdown levels during the pandemic, the SAIW began offering virtual learning to allow students to safely join a class.
Tarboton explains that, while virtual learning offers many advantages, particularly in the conditions created by the pandemic, the institute is happy to offer in-person classes again.
“It is difficult as a lecturer to present over a virtual platform such as Microsoft Teams. With face-to-face learning, you can see from body language whether people understand what you say, and you can identify people quickly that need further assistance, and overall class interaction is better as well,” elaborates Tarboton.
Going forward, the SAIW will continue to offer virtual learning to students as it allows students to save money on accommodation, transport, food and other related expenses.
However, the institute emphasises that the experience of a face-to-face course offers a richer learning experience compared to a virtual course experience.
To offer a better in-class learning experience, the SAIW will be upgrading its technology with better smart boards which will be for courses that are largely theory-based. To offer students more flexibility, SAIW has modularised its courses so that a significant portion of the course can be accessed virtually with students required to attend in-person for the portions that require a more hands-on approach if students choose so.
Tarboton adds that the SAIW will continue to highlight the various types of careers within the welding industry that are available. Apart from becoming a welder, there are also career paths in non-destructive testing (NDT), as well as welding supervisors, welding and fabrication inspectors and inspectors of pressure equipment among others.
“There's a whole roadmap for students to build their careers,” he says.
The SAIW provides various resources such as infographics to educate prospective students – and the general public – on their courses and the kinds of jobs that become available through successfully completing such courses.
The SAIW has also made changes to its ISO 3834 certification programme, in particular in its payment options. To assist ISO 3834 clients throughout the pandemic – and going forward– the SAIW introduced two payment plan options, with a flexible payment option or a subscription service which entails low monthly payments covering all company certification expenses going forward.
SAIW Certification CEO Herman Potgieter explains that the new payment options reduce the financial pressure that annual audit fees can present.
“We divided the payment into three parts so that clients have a three-month period in the flexible option. A subscription service option divides the annual survey audit fee into 12 parts,” says Potgieter.
The institute’s ISO 3834 certification programme has continued to show consistent growth since the inception of the scheme, even during the pandemic, despite some of the institute’s clients being forced to close.
The institute’s NDT division has also experienced high growth thus far owing to projects it has been involved in.
Tarboton enthuses that the institute’s outlook for next year “looks pretty good” with it being in a good position to replenish some of its reserves.