Welding the perfect public private partnership

13 October, 2014:Sustainable skills development and subsequent community upliftment remains a top priority for Sub-Saharan gas market leader Afrox, which has invested substantially in training initiatives within the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in the Eastern Cape.

The Coega IDZ is managed by the Coega Development Corporation (CDC), which operates a training centre that facilitates all aspects of training, with a particular focus on technical and construction related skills development through learnerships, internships and apprenticeships.

Afrox is a substantial role player in the Coega IDZ, having invested R300-million in the region on a state-of-the-art air separation unit (ASU), which is the first of its kind in Africa. It will support the development and growth of the local economy, which will in turn lead to much needed job creation.
As a socially responsible corporate citizen, Afrox has taken its commitment to local community upliftment beyond operational business, by sponsoring R1-million worth of welding and gases equipment and providing in-depth expertise for the welding courses that are hosted for learnerstaking part in the Eastern Cape Schools and Tertiary Welding Programme.

Coega Skills Development Centre(CSDC) facilitator, assessor and moderator Jaco Koortzen states that Afrox has been an important strategic partner to the CDC training centre over the past three years. “Afrox has installed reticulation systems forOxygen,Acetylene, Carbon and Shielding gases, together with the pipeline that connects the outside cylinders right up to the work stations and the welding bays.”

In order to ensure that the skills development initiative is as far-reaching as possible, Afrox has identified a number of technical high schools in the region, which the company will support by funding extensive teacher training in the field of welding in mechanical technology.

Afrox Eastern Cape regional manager Rene Naidu explains that teachers from four preselected schools in the region have been identified to attend an accredited 40-hour training programme scheduled over a period of ten weeks. “The identified teachers are required to attend all sessions at the CDC training centre in order to receive an accredited certificate in the field of welding.”

This forms part of a national Afrox initiative to support economic development and alleviate the impact of poverty in South Africa by empowering, skilling and developing young people across the Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng to realise their potential and providing them employment opportunities across various portfolios within the Afrox Group.

Naidu adds: “Welding is a critically scarce skill in South Africa, and it has gotten to the point that we are having to import welders from Thailand to fill the gap. By reintroducing welding to the national curriculum and fully equipping teachers with all the support and resources that they require, we are confident of creating and nurturing careers in this field on an industry-wide basis.”

Koortzen notes that the long-term objective is tooffer bursaries to matriculants, by enteringinto partnerships with technical collegesin the Eastern Cape. “By creating awareness among school pupils at a young age, CSDC and Afrox aim to encourage and promote a career in welding at grassroots level, through long-term partnerships that involve interactive experiences.”

According to Koortzen, this welding training initiative will add substantial value to the automotive reliant Eastern Cape market. “At the moment, there is a strong manufacturing presence but a severe lack in skills. By bridging this gap through training, we can ensure that local jobs are created for newly-skilled local residents, thereby ensuring long-term socio-economic prosperity,” he concludes.