SAIW, through the SAIW Foundation, will commit R1.5-million over two years to subsidise 20 welding apprentices on a QCTO pilot training programme. It is now seeking industrial partners willing to recruit apprentices and partner with SAIW on this groundbreaking scheme. African Fusion talks to Etienne Nell.

Etienne NellThe SAIW Foundation has decided to fund the new QCTO-based (Quality Council for Trades and Occupations) apprenticeship programme for 20 students and is looking for industry partners to co-invest in the scheme. This pilot programme will be run at the SAIW Welding School in City West, Johannesburg, starting in April or May this year.

“This is no ordinary exercise,” says SAIW’s Etienne Nell. “It is neither a Unit Standards-based Learnership nor a traditional welding school programme. It is a full-blown apprenticeship based on the new dual system QCTO apprenticeship programme, which will combine technical education and simulated practical training at the SAIW with authentic work experience in a fabricator’s workshop.”

The key thing, according to Nell, is that industry needs to take charge by appointing its own apprentices. “Then the company signs a Memorandum of Understanding MOUs with an accredited training body such as the SAIW, which will then provide the theoretical as well as the practical components of the new registered QCTO Welder Qualification,” Nell adds.

Describing how the system works, he says that at the starting point, industry needs to recruit apprentices. They then commission SAIW to do the theoretical and practical training involved, which needs to be 100% aligned with the new curriculum. “Industries involvement from the start is the key here,” Nell notes.

The new National Occupational Qualification is based on the Bratislavia Agreement, which means it is aligned with International best practices and the International Institute of Welding’s (IIW) training curriculum. So industry and apprentices can be assured of the quality of the programme.

The programme aims to produce:

  • A skilled and capable welding workforce to support economic growth.

  • Increased availability of intermediate welding skills.

  • Increased delivery of properly qualified artisans welders.

“Because of the integrated modular approach, the school-based training can be tailored to suit a company’s direct skills needs, and these ‘intermediate skills’ can be directly used by the company following short school-based modules,” Nell says. “Industry participation is essential in this process, because learning a trade is like learning to ride a bicycle, you only learn once you start doing it for real,” he explains.

Putting hours onto the programme components, he says that 1 310 hours are allocated to technical knowledge modules (KMs), along with 1 960 hours of for practical modules (PMs), which will be done at the SAIW and its Welding School. “But the biggest number of hours, 2 200, are reserved for workplace modules (WMs) that need to be done at the employers site. The apprentice is, therefore, working for a significant percentage of this QCTO training programme.

“If we can get industry buy-in to appoint and send apprentices to us, then we will tailor the training according to the immediate needs of the workplace. If, for example, a company needs fillet welders, they can ask us to schedule 4F Fillet Welder training in an early module. Under a PM module, we will then qualify the apprentice according the company’s procedure so that, when he goes back to the workplace after completing a four-week module at the SAIW, he or she can be productive on the shop floor as a qualified 4F welder while being paid as an apprentice. That is what government wants today,” Nell tells African Fusion.

 “The programme therefore becomes a single, integrated learning programme, presented through an iterative process, with employers in the driver’s seat!” Nell exclaims, adding, “The training can be stacked and packed in any way employers choose.”

Describing the current situation, he says that public providers and TVET colleges offer welder training without any workplace or occupational competence components. Many of the curricula used are outdated and trade theory front-loaded, with long intervals between theory and practice. “Even students on N Courses do not get practical training or work experience and most are selected by colleges without any reference from employers. There are very few links between public colleges and industry,” Nell says.

What is new? “QCTO artisan training is now an occupational competence and a national qualification with new and modern industry-designed curricula that tightly interweave trade theory, simulated practice and work experience. All students will now get practical training and work experience, with employers selecting and managing their own apprentices. And we promise close interaction between the SAIW and employers,” he notes.

Making a profit by training apprentices

What is in it for companies? Right from the start, according to Nell, companies that employ apprentices benefit via very cost-effective labour rates with additional benefits including: SETA training grants; SARS Tax incentives; B-BBEE score cards and social responsibility credentials… read more.

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