Following the successful inauguration in 2016, Afrox’s first tertiary welding facility in Soshanguve, in partnership with POPUP (People Upliftment Programme), has to date trained 11 learners who have qualified with skills in various fields of welding trade.
Currently the welding school consists of 12 fully equipped welding bays suitable for training in shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW), tungsten inert gas welding (GTAW), and oxy-fuel welding and cutting processes. Students are also taught how to correctly use power and hand tools with safety standards and regulations a focal point.
Through this direct focus on technical skills training and up-skilling programmes, Afrox aims to contribute towards the development of entrepreneurial skills and upliftment of South Africa’s unemployed youth, with an emphasis on welding as an in-demand route to sustainable careers or self-employment.
Executive director for POPUP Marlene Freislich says that Afrox and POPUP first crossed paths in 2012 at Afrox’s annual Bumbanani Day, one of the company’s social responsibility initiatives. The possibility of establishing a welding school was identified and since then Afrox has provided invaluable support to the programme.
“From providing gas and gas equipment for cooking meals through to the opening of the welding school four years later, Afrox has been instrumental in getting facilities at the POPUP centre in Soshanguve up and running,” says Freislich.
Robert Sekwele, skills development facilitator for POPUP, echoes these sentiments and adds that Afrox’s decision to base a welding school at the POPUP centre in Soshanguve is opening up skills to people who need them the most.
“The rural areas surrounding Soshanguve are home to some of the poorest and most under-privileged communities in the country and much of our learner intake comes from people who walk off the street,” he explains.
He adds that welding has become a scarce skill in South Africa and that Afrox’s easily accessible welding school allows the most destitute, who cannot afford transportation costs, to fulfil their basic needs, equip themselves with skills, and ultimately find employment or become self-employed in a sector that lacks qualified welding artisans.
With the assistance of Afrox, POPUP plans to actively implement a new approach to the steel product manufacturing market which will result in upliftment, empowerment, and skills development of their learners. At the same time three of South Africa’s major challenges will be addressed – job creation, skills development and socio-economic development.
POPUP also plans to partner with local engineering companies, developers and construction companies, retailers of pre-manufactured steel products, and steel manufacturing companies that sell welded commodities such as palisade fencing, window frames and burglar proofing. The proceeds of product sales will be put back into sustaining the programme.
The welding school is currently awaiting CHIETA and QCTO (Quality Council for Trades and Occupation) accreditation.
POPUP is a non-profit organisation established in 1999 with a holistic approach to the upliftment of under-privileged communities in Tshwane. Most of the students that enter the programme begin with foundational life skills courses and basic adult educational training before the actual skills programme begins. At present the organisation offers 28 accredited market-related skills programmes to the unemployed. Freislich says that over the last decade POPUP has successfully trained over 7 000 people and registered in excess of 50 businesses that have also been provided with enterprise training and support.
The welding school at the POPUP centre in Soshanguve is part of Afrox’s larger corporate social investment initiative. Other programmes focused on socio-economic and skills development include the support and upliftment of 13 secondary and 4 tertiary schools across the country that have received training of learners, upgrading of equipment and facilities and up-skilling of teachers from Afrox over the past four years.
Afrox also runs Young Talent Development consisting of in-service training, apprenticeships, internships and learnerships, while their SED programme continues to provide donations of LPG to Early Childhood Development feeding schemes, and gases and welding materials to various training centres.
Initiatives such as these have earned Afrox recognition from the Department of Labour for the company’s efforts to combat unemployment.
“Welding is the backbone of industry as it builds economies, infrastructure and whole nations. Afrox has invested tens of millions of rands into research and development over the years,” says Johann Pieterse, Business Manager for Manufacturing Industries at Afrox. “Our commitment to our welding schools and centres is very real as Afrox is dedicated to encouraging youth to take up this profession of the future and we hope to see thousands of young people graduate as welders over the years to come.
“Taking the lead and putting action behind our promise, Afrox has also sponsored 12 students at its welding school at LIV in Cottonlands, KZN. These students will be the first to get trained on the new outcome-based QCTO welding programme and to date have completed the SMAW Fillet programme and are ready for their work place experience,” says Pieterse. “In the space of three years they will be contributing to building a strong South African economy.”