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Financially astute companies are training engineers now

Is your company well-positioned to survive the economic downturn? Have you cut back on training? If so, you should be aware that upskilling is a countercyclical activity and that now is the right time for fabricators, producers and dealers to train their employees. This is the opinion of Amanuel Gebremeskel, Development Engineer at the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC).

"Cutting back on training in times like these is false economy," says Gebremeskel. "Sending young engineers for training now will have a direct impact, translating into increased productivity in the workplace, among other measurable benefits," he says.

Medium-sized fabricators who have used this foresight are doing well. Take the example of Tass Engineering; in order to both replace retiring expertise and gear up for expansion, Tass decided to send their boilermakers, machine operators and others to SAISC for upskilling. According to Tim Tasioulas, Tass CEO, the results – increases in productivity, motivation and staff loyalty – encouraged them to continue this upskilling programme and, to date, around forty of their staff have participated.

Meanwhile the SAISC has provided training to the industry for almost sixty years and in February 2015 launched the Steel Academy, an umbrella body for all its training initiatives. "This is an innovative branding exercise, aimed at drawing attention to the SAISC's top-draw training and upskilling programmes," says SAISC CEO PaoloTrinchero.

"Training is critical to the long term success and financial performance of any company and is vital to the continued sustainability and competitiveness of not only the steel construction industry in South Africa but to all industries," says Trinchero, who is passionate about reversing the dearth of skilled engineers in the industry through the newly-launched Steel Academy.

The Steel Academy provides short- and long-term courses, structured around the fact that the attendees also have jobs to fulfil. Its interactive training uses a hands-on approach, with personal mentoring, examples, calculations and discussions. On some courses the attendees are required to do work related to their own companies.

About thirty courses are available, largely modular in format, as well as more advanced programmes. The academy is increasingly attracting trainees from other African states and the improving competitiveness of these states is something that the local industry should take notice of.
All the course presenters are specialists – industry experts – who use a hands-on, interactive approach to mentor the trainees on each course and companies who send more than one attendee to a course receive up to 10% discount.

In the first half of 2015, short courses – of two or three days – designed for young engineers and draughtsmen include an Introduction to Basic Framing and Joint Configuration relating to Steelwork, Primary or Basic Connection Design, Typical Portal Frame Design to SABS 10162, and Basic Moment Connection Design.

Among the host of SAISC programmes relevant to the steel industry are long courses covering Business Development and Marketing, Financial Management, Legal and Contractual matters, Economics of Steel Design, Connection Design, Steel Bridges, Materials Handling and more.
Through direct academic input, the SAISC also assures the academic quality of the Civil Engineering faculties at South Africa's top five universities; Pretoria, Wits, Stellenbosch, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal. The Architectural faculties of some of these institutions also receive input from SAISC.

Trinchero says that one of the important aims of the Steel Academy initiative is to help in the continuing transformation of the steel construction industry. "We would like to see a considerable increase in black candidates attending the courses," he says.

At present the SAISC is also mentoring five interns from the Vaal University of Technology.

For more information on the courses offered by the SAISC Steel Academy, call 011 726 6111.

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