Sharpening craftsmen skills

After 15 years of hard work in advanced manufacturing training, the engineering faculty of the North-West University (NWU)’s Potchefstroom campus has now been appointed as the first tertiary institution to be involved with the practical training of students of the National Tooling Initiative Programme (NTIP).

The NTIP is an initiative funded by the government and trains craftsmen as toolmakers.

According to Professor LJ Grobler, dean of this faculty, the students who benefit from this are students who are trained as toolmakers.

“Our training is now integrated as the final level of a certain training curriculum of the NTIP training programme.

“Over the past few years we started the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing with specialised equipment and laboratories.

“The centre has already achieved many successes, among which are South Africa’s first locally manufactured twin-screw extruder.

“The government noticed our expertise and has made funds available to launch the country’s first tertiary pilot project of its kind.”

He says the aim of the government’s Skills Development Programme is to address the shortage in skills that South Africa currently experiences and to reduce job losses.

The massive need for these skills will also be better addressed by this initiative.

The department of trade and industry has released a new list of scarce and critical skills and many of them fall under the engineering and manufacturing industry.

The department is of the opinion that the shortage in skills remained the same over the past decade and in some fields of study it even showed a bigger shortage.

The country specifically has a massive shortage of trained tool-makers.

The NWU’s pilot project entails that 36 students attend an advanced course for three months.

Besides the infrastructure and equipment needed for their training, the government funding also covers accommodation, transport and meals.

Danie Vorster, a lecturer in mechanical engineering, says the project also hugely benefits the industry.

“The contribution that NWU makes towards the training of these craftsmen will be invaluable for the engineering industry, the private sector and government goals. This is a clear example that the government’s collaboration with universities will be to the benefit of everybody.”

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