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Welding and Welders: a glimpse into TWF edge and solutions

Welding is an essential skill to manufacturing and fabrication in strategic sectors such as power generation, chemical processing and construction, transportation, food and beverage and mining.

Welders it seems are a dime a dozen but highly skilled welders are not. This is the stark reality facing the entire African industry space according to SAIW Executive Director John Tarboton who is concerned about the number of fly by night training institutions that churn out graduates without the proper qualifications in place. This wastes students’ hard-earned or even borrowed financing and sends out a generation of unqualified welders into the marketplace.

According to a new joint study by the World Bank, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems in many low- and middle-income countries do not match skills and labor market needs and are unprepared to meet the large rise in demand for TVET in the coming years.

It is therefore correct to state that contrary to the generalist opinion by a number of low-income countries, there might be a high number of welders but inadequate number of competent and knowledgeable welders. Highly skilled welders are a scarce and priced industrial commodity. While most societies in Africa, pride themselves of having high number of welders, critically assessed, majority of these welders unfortunately do no fall within the bracket of competent and knowledgeable welders. Easy evidence of this fact is the continuous influx of expatriate welders despite the supposed high number of welders claimed by different countries.

Executive Director, TWF, Ayo Adeniyi posits “the place of knowledgeable welders in manufacturing is non-negotiable. A reduction in weld failure, high rate of safety awareness and huge cost saving through efficient material utilization during production are some of the immediate benefits it guarantees. “

Despite the high rate of unemployment in the manufacturing industry, even when welders seek out employment; anecdotally what has been found on standard projects tailored to code requirements, is that out of ten interviewed, it is more common to find that less than ten percent will be sufficiently qualified for the job or a high number of failure rates are recorded resulting into retaining of welders on the job. Scenarios of this nature create a lot of problems for manufacturing companies who are often bullied with local content against code requirements.

Tarboton comments; “Unfortunately this stems from the issue that training providers do not always understand the need for suitably qualified and experienced trainers within their institutions. Trainers and training systems which follow clearly outlined training guidelines in properly equipped facilities.  TVET centers jettison the need to embrace detailed systems developed by industry professionals to guarantee skill development that meet code requirements. Rather, they prefer to engage just about anyone, and optionally follow unvalidated procedures because they are comfortable with less verification hold points and mostly cheaper but with dangerous output. “

Shockingly, a good number of trainers and even certification bodies, assume responsibilities for which they are not adequately equipped both in the present and for the long haul. They do not understand the need for sustained commitment to highest level ethics and a proper understanding of Codes and Standards underwritten by objective assessments.

Tarboton adds that “this is especially worrying given the danger this poses to the quality of the installations of projects or products that these welders work on prior to achieving the appropriate level of skill. The training of welders needs to be given the respect it is due. Welding is an essential skill to manufacturing and fabrication in strategic sectors such as power generation, chemical processing and construction, transportation, food and beverage and mining.”

Unfortunately, despite its high potential, training often falls short of expectations in low- and middle-income countries, says the report by world bank et al. This is largely due to lack of commitment to competitive skill development through funding, weak support systems for TVET bodies, lack of industry driven data modifications to training programs, and weak incentives for training service providers.

Light at the end of the training tunnel

Against this backdrop, and to solve Africa’s crisis of a lack of suitably qualified welders and welding personnel, TWF has made effort to integrate frameworks for the building and continual improvement of welding capacities across societies in Africa.

Ayo comments “based on a position driven by data that are both technical and socioeconomic, TWF has developed an integrated framework for the training and qualification of welders to serve skill demands in Africa’s manufacturing industry.  In addition to its tailor-made solutions in specific areas of red alert skill needs, TWF is also engaging in deep rooted frameworks guaranteed to spur access to socioeconomic benefits for Africans. We are started with WESU in Uganda and we are very glad with the national progress report. Also currently working with LIWESU Liberia to change the face of welding in the coming years. Tanzania, Senegal, Mozambique and Seria lone are all already on the radar.”

The world bank report posits that over the next two decades, demographic trends and higher completion rates at lower levels of education are likely to cause an exponential increase in the number of TVET students. In Burundi, Mali, and Uganda, the number of secondary TVET students is expected to more than quadruple; in Niger, the number is expected to rise ten-fold. Already, many of these countries face increasing pressure from high shares of youth not in education, employment, or training. Situations and scenarios of this kind are the focus of TWF. Not only to ensure the development of quality skills, but as well linkage to industry opportunities.

Executive Director, Ayo Adeniyi believes that in addition to increasing commitment to skill development across Africa’s societies, the development and sustenance of intricately wired systems that juggle factors to support productivity in manufacturing are equally both important and urgent.

There is a consensus in the position to see Africa grow, via effective and efficient collaborations that are reflective of a fusion in visions and missions. The much-publicized collaboration between IIW and TWF will work towards improving the lives of Africans by growing and sustaining productivity in manufacturing as a high source of job creation for youths and young adults.

Furthermore, Ayo states that TWF has established a continental welding contest (TWF CWC). The purpose of TWF CWC is not necessarily to distinguish between best and bad welders, but to create an environment that positively inspires a commitment by welders in Africa to stretch the elastic limit of their welding skills, to consistently meet dynamic industry demands though practice, experience sharing and building of friendships across the continent.

The first edition of TWF CWC 2024 under the sponsorship of ESAB comes up along with TWF 2nd Annual Assembly and Conference on Materials Manufacturing Technologies-Managing Capacity Africa from 5-8 March,2024 at Eko Hotel, Lagos Nigeria. Welders, welding associations and training institutions from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Seria Lone, Cote d Ivoire, Libya, Mauritania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Liberia have already been invited to participate in this competition free. Winners will be entitled to mouthwatering prices ESAB, the gold sponsors of TWF CWC 2024.

TWF CWC will not necessarily always move along with TWF Annual Assembly and Conferences. It will be open for countries that indicate capacities to sponsor the event. We are hoping other African countries will indicate interest to host this important skill-based event and initiate a push the limit further attitude in welding across Africa.  Equipping African welders with the combination of skill and attitude to push toward welding like robots.

These are part of the multi-layer concepts TWF has established to change the narrative completely. Perhaps more important is TWF’s African vocational skill system in welding nearing competition. Once launched at the later part of this 2023, TWF is open to partner with companies who want to produce artisan welders to standard requirements with the necessary skill levels that address national demands but additionally connected to industries across Africa. Implementation of TWF AVS levels will be implemented via government approved frameworks and TVET bodies in each country without interference.

As an Approved Training Body’s (ATB) or TVET center approved by TWF, training locations will have the opportunity to implement a combination of IIW and TWF programs leading to any or a combination of both diplomas. TWF-TNB channels in each local country are able to provide support to companies with the selection of candidates for the TWF-AVS two-year apprenticeship training scheme, which offers any and a combination diploma i.e., in collaboration with vocational system regulators or boards in each country.

TWF personnel qualification and certificate scheme is a reliable vehicle to build, integrate and sustain a commitment to welding skills and technical capacity development in Africa’s manufacturing industries at the most cost-effective rate. TWF training culminates in a welder test based on objective criteria according to ISO 3834 standards where the actual quality of a weld, including its height and thickness, for example, is assessed – not just the act of having completed a weld.”  Welding production can be based on any of ISO 9606, AWS D1.1, ASME of CSA standards.

About: The Welding Federation (TWF) is an association of societies, bodies, associations and stakeholders involved in either the dissemination of knowledge or application of welding technology across member countries in the continent. TWF is a ‘Not for Profit’ organization incorporated in South Africa. It is the continental body responsible for coordinating activities in the science and application of joining technologies, providing a forum for networking and knowledge exchange among researchers, industry and educators, harmonization in skill development templates, disseminating leading-edge information and best practices for the growth and sustenance of Africa’s manufacturing industry.

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