Strengthening the Steel Industry Through Skills Development and Training

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Quality education and training are constituent components of the South African steel industry. As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have wreaked havoc on the metals sector, in the face of a steadily increasing unemployment rate across the board, the industry must focus on stimulating growth and employment opportunities. 

This strategy begins with pioneering work-based learning programmes to ensure that youths are integrated in the steel manufacturing ecosystem. 

Neil Reddy

According to Neil Reddy, Business Strategy & Projects Manager at Veer Steel Mills, while skills development and training has been disrupted in 2020 due to the coronavirus, it is more important than ever that the metals sector restratgise and plan for 2021 and up the ante on tangible opportunities for education and employment. “It is crucial for business leaders and employers to act on the preeminent changes happening in the industry if manufacturing is to not only survive the negative strides detailed by this global pandemic, but improve in production capacity, and profitability in the sector through endorsing portable skills and the employment of youth.”

Acting on this key ethos, Veer Steel Mills has partnered with institutions such as the University of Johannesburg and the Katlehong Engineering School of Specialisation with a focus on manufacturing. To date, Veer Steel Mills have had an intake of 200 trainees annually in various industries and in an array of vacancies such as apprenticeships, learnerships, work readiness programmes and internships. From the learnership vacancies, they have absorbed 60 students on a permanent basis. “Our strategy at Veer Steel Mills is simple: we train to employ. Many organisations enjoy the benefits of induction, training and releasing and starting the process all over again, without a clear intention to absorb any trainees,” says Reddy.

The success of incorporating these training initiatives into your organisation lies in partnering with a relevant SETA, such as MerSETA (Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services). This SETA’s core mandate is to make available skills development programmes to increase the amount of engineering and manufacturing professionals in South Africa.

“SETAs are here to bolster job opportunities and focus on unemployment and the most effective way to combat unemployment is to get skilled workers and offer skills training, in turn, giving your company credibility and opportunity to see the success of a business growth strategy. There is a demand to bridge the gap between education and training in the workplace, and this can be achieved through a comprehensive portable skills programme. These administrations aid in Vocational skills training organisations will expand your skills and upgrade your career prospects. Through these programmes, your focus should be to absorb as many learners as possible into your organisation,” Reddy states.

The key consideration is the longevity and success of the steel manufacturing industry as a whole; fundamental to this is best converting youths entering the sector into future leaders and active contributors to innovation. With proper education and training, the industry will benefit from a culture of qualified staff in an assortment of disciplines in order to elevate excellent service delivery in the sector as a whole.

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