According to Sean Jones, managing director of the Artisan Training Institute (ATI), the shortage of welders in South Africa has opened a window of opportunity for local job creation.
The South African Institute of Welders (SAIW) agrees that the welding industry poses great employment prospects for people from all levels of education, ranging from grade 12’s to post-graduates. This is because of the complex nature of South Africa’s construction and manufacturing projects, which requires equally complex welding processes.
A 2012 study by the SAIW points to the general misconception of welding skills only being required at a “lower” level.
Multiple processes are used to make welds, such as TIG root welding and manual metal arc (MMA) welding. Additionally, a wide range of materials are welded in the manufacturing space, including special high temperature grades of steel, which require ultra-careful control of the welding process.
South Africa’s manufacturing plants generally fall in “high hazard” categories which imply that failure of these plants will not only have significant financial consequences, but also poses safety risks.
These are some of the reasons why South Africa needs to grow its local pool of lower level and high-end welding skills – from skilled welders, supervisors, inspectors and non-destructive testing technicians, to welding technologists and welding engineers.
According to Sean Blake executive director of the SAIW the training industry has made inroads to grow local welders over the past five years. “We currently have 154 companies that are certified as compliant with the ISO 3834 welding regulations as part of the Manufacturer Certification Scheme.”
Blake explains that this scheme has a positive impact on recognising the need for trained, qualified and competent personnel in the field of welding.
“The QCTO has furthermore developed a new welder curriculum that is well aligned with the IIW International Welder Programme and which we believe is much better suited to the training skills required by industry,” says Blake.
The DHET has contracted SAIW to assist with the implementation of this artisan curriculum in TVET colleges.
“This is a major step in the right direction, but we do believe that much more dedicated and coordinated efforts by industry, training institutions and government will be required to ensure that our country produces sufficient artisans and welders to enable future growth,” Blake concludes.