Afrox welding specialist named "young welder of the year"

One of Afrox´s top performing welding specialists, Houston Isaacs, has won the South African Institute of Welding´s (SAIW) Young Welder of the Year competition, qualifying him to represent South Africa in Liepzig, Germany, at the WorldSkills competition in July 2013 Houston will compete against top performers from other countries for the world title.

WorldSkills is a biennial event that showcases the skills of young people under the age of 23, in 46 skills categories, including welding. The competition is open to agencies or bodies promoting vocational education and training in their respective countries or regions and attracts entries from more than 50 countries.

The WorldSkills International Association provides a unique means of exchange and comparison of world class competency standards in the industrial trades and service sectors of the global economy. Its continued growth verifies the fact that traditional trade and craft skills, along with the more recent technology multi-skilled vocations, make an essential contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of national economies.

Backed by industry involvement and Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (merSETA) support, the SAIW created the Young Welder of the Year competition to choose a South African entrant for WorldSkills.

merSETA sponsors the local competitor´s travel costs and participation in the event and this involvement in turn benefits merSETA by enlarging the learning portfolio and improving the SETA's status in global competitiveness.

"We´re very proud to have a top welder like Houston among our employees," says Afrox Business Manager, Manufacturing Industries, Johann Pieterse. "Afrox regards welding as the backbone of the manufacturing industry since any infrastructural project such as power, roads, rail and shipping requires a vast amount of welding. It´s therefore critical that we train and develop skilled welders and boilermakers to meet the present and future requirements of industry."

"As sub-Saharan Africa´s market leader in gases and welding products, Afrox is determined to help create an environment where our people can be trained and developed to build a successful future for South Africa. Skills development will uplift our growing economy, enable it to compete globally and, in turn, create more employment."

He emphasises that although Afrox is not heavily involved in the training of qualified welders, the organisation actively supports recognised training institutions with products developed in South Africa, as well as those manufactured by global suppliers such as Miller and Hobart. Afrox also offers bursaries for learnerships and apprenticeships and partners with training bodies to develop individuals into qualified artisans. In addition, the organisation actively participates in the development of new training facilities and has played a role in the establishment of new training centres in Gauteng, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

"But it doesn´t end there," continues Pieterse. "Once a new welder enters the market, he needs to gain work experience and this can only be achieved by time spent on the job and by learning from knowledge handed down by senior welders. To this end, we´ve developed an in-house solution to close this gap in the form of a technical support division, comprising welding experts both within Afrox and from the greater industry, who together have years of experience to impart to young artisans."

"This invaluable expertise is passed on to our employees through internal training courses as well as on-site support at customer premises and this approach is yielding two very positive outcomes. Firstly, it bridges the experience gap, resulting in a more motivated and experienced welder, able to take ownership of his job and take responsibility for the outcome. And secondly, Afrox´s quality standards are improving, increasing productivity and reducing costs."

"The skills shortage poses a real challenge to the country´s economic wellbeing. Identifying solutions is not only the responsibility of training bodies, but of all industry stakeholders," he concludes. "A positive ´Can Do´ attitude will ultimately result in a skills upliftment that will turn us into a globally competitive market player."

A win in all three categories

The SAIW Young Welder of the Year competition comprises three welding categories — carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium — and Houston won all three categories to became the overall winner. He is the first person to win all three categories since the inception of the competition in South Africa.

Houston joined Afrox in February 2010 as a Trainee Support Specialist after completing his welding theory and practice training at the West Coast College in Vredenburg. The year before he joined Afrox, Houston was the runner-up in the competition. He completed his IIW welding qualification in 2011 and qualified as an international welding specialist in 2012. This also qualifies him to be an international welding instructor.