Providing training for relevant skills and experience in the steel industry is one of the keys to addressing the industry’s skills shortage and high youth unemployment rate in South Africa.
According to Statistics South Africa’s recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), published on June 1, 2021, approximately 3,3 million (32,4%) out of 10,2 million young people aged 15-24 years were not employed or trained. The overall NEET rate increased by 1,7 percentage points in Q1:2021 compared to Q1:2020 statistics. This depicted a further drop in the employment rate, as a result, the official unemployment rate has been persistently high over time with the youth being the most affected by unemployment.
To remain an active role player in skills transfer and creation ventures, Alfeco Group’s ferrous metal’s division – Veer Steel Mills – inducted a select group of 171 learners for the 2021/22 portable skills development courses. This was done in partnership with two Non-Profit Companies focused on skills transfer namely, Imisebenzi and Nhlanhla P.S Holdings as well as training authority body, MerSETA (Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority), which focusses on the metal sector.
The learners will undergo various work-readiness programmes including internships, learnerships and apprenticeships at the Group’s Alrode plant in Alberton. Some of these learners will be transferred to the Group’s Veer Aluminium plant in Olifantsfontein to complete their training.
Thabile Lukhele, Training Manager at Veer Steel Mills, says the training programme spanning three years in partnership with MerSETA was established to allow work-related practical exposure and training opportunities to the unemployed youth in order to create employment.
“In order to take South Africa forward and make our country globally competitive within the metal sector, our youth require extensive skills training. The learners will be trained in Administration, Electrical, Fitting & Turning, Mechanical, General Engineering, Metallurgy and Production Technology,” says Lukhele.
135 learners will be trained in Production Technology, eight will join the Fitter apprenticeship programme, another eight will be a part of the Turner apprenticeship programme and 20 individuals will join the Mechanical Engineering and Metallurgy graduate programmes.
Lukhele added that participating in such programmes create skilled employees who add value to the group and provide a platform to become employable with the requisite skills and certification.
According to Lukhele, the new in-take could not have come at a better time as Youth Month was on the horizon in the country.
“In commemoration of Youth Month, we are doing our part in building the next generation of young, skilled workforce, as we are cognisant that investing in the youth is paramount to the growth of the steel industry, manufacturing and the country,” says Lukhele.
Mpho Mphou successfully completed the 2020 Production Technology learnership programme. Upon completion he was absorbed into the production department under Pioneer Metals – the copper manufacturing division of Alfeco Group.
“My supervisor Francesco Sanna has taught me almost everything about production. I now enjoy production and I aspire to teach other youth about the intricacies and joys of production,” says Mphou.
Mphou advised the new in-take of learners to be diligent and listen to their facilitators and read their notes regularly to find success.
Veer Steel Mills’ greater objective, in partnership with MerSeta, and training bodies such as the Resolution Circle of the University of Johannesburg is to develop future leaders in the steel industry who will have the capabilities, proper knowledge, requisite skillset and understanding of how to produce and provide the best steel in the sector globally.
In today’s tough economic climate – while the focus is to impart skills – the company has ensured the students are well catered for financially.
“Our learners will benefit by receiving a stipend over the next 12 months while enhancing their skills in the immediate working environment. This will ultimately enhance their career prospects,” says Lukhele.
Lukhele further believes training staff to stay abreast of continuous technological advancements in the industry helps them maintain their business presence and adhere to best practice.