Sean Blake celebrates SAIW’s platinum anniversary and reflects on the reasons for the Institute’s longevity. 

Sean BlakeOur SAIW Annual Dinner on September 7 is a very special one because we will be celebrating our 70th Anniversary. The symbol for a 70-year marriage is platinum, which is a particularly appropriate representation of the durability and national value of the SAIW.

Back in 1948 when the SAIW was established by Afrox’s Harvey Shacklock, who would have believed that this small non-profit Institute would become the leading welding organisation on the African Continent: a founder member of the IIW; the Continent’s most respected training facility for welding related personnel; and its champion of welding quality standards and certification.

The key to remaining successful for this length of time, I believe, is twofold. First we have always strived to be relevant to the welding industry at large. The SAIW serves industry and it can only do so successfully by using the skills and experience of members from industry. All of our training courses and examinations, for example, have been developed on behalf of and using input from welding specialists actively involved in the welding industry, specialists who know what is required of young graduates for them to have long and successful careers.

Second is our obsession with excellence and continuous improvement. The welding industry has changed significantly since the SAIW’s establishment in 1948 as a voluntary industry association. Then in 1977, Phil Santilhano joined as the Institute’s technical director to offer technical support to members.

In response to our industry’s increasing needs for personnel, the SAIW developed and began to run training courses in the early 80s. In the early 2000s, we began to offer IIW qualifications and in 2003 we became an Authorised National Body (ANB) of the IIW. Our relationship with the IIW has gone from strength to strength and today we run the IIW Welding Inspection programmes, with graduates receiving IIW diplomas that are valid internationally.

And we continue to improve our training offerings: with the introduction of modern NDT techniques such as phased array UT, eddy-current testing and digital radiography, for example.

The SAIW is now accredited by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) as per the recently introduced South African National Artisan Welder programme. In partnership with ArcelorMittal, we are now introducing the SAIW QCTO Artisan Training for a group of 15 apprentices who will be funded from the SAIW Foundation Programme.

The QCTO programme is aligned with the IIW International Welder, and graduates from the SAIW Foundation will receive internationally recognised IIW qualifications on top of their National Artisan Qualification.

We are also in the process of establishing our Future Welder Training Centre, which will focus on advanced and automated welding processes, which are becoming increasingly important in industry.

Welding has long been a process governed by welding codes, but the international welding industry has been on a path of increasing professionalism, driven by the development and implementation of ISO quality systems and standards. Most notable for us is the ISO 3834 standard for fusion welding of metallic materials.

We are particularly proud to have introduced this standard into South Africa along with the associated SAIW Welding Fabricator Certification Scheme. To date, SAIW Certification has certified over 160 welding companies in South Africa against ISO 3834.

In recognition of the importance of ISO 3834, we have introduced two additional awards, which will be first presented at our 70th Annual Dinner: the Best ISO 3834 Welding Fabrication Company Award; and the Best Welding Co-ordinator Award. Selecting winners will not be easy.

We have a lot to celebrate at our Platinum Anniversary and I look forward to reminiscing with you all about 70 years of SAIW successes.

Sean Blake

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