It took a while to stick, but South Africa’s biggest ever composite training programme is finally up and running with the first 15 recruits enrolled in August at the Composites Training Academy (CTA) in Cape Town.

“It definitely took a while,” CTACTA’s Oliver Dawson told SABBEX. “But that is good because you need to do proper due diligence with these kinds of projects.

The composites training is one leg of a public-private pilot project initiated by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti), aimed at bolstering skills in the maritime sector.  CTA will conduct polymer composites skills programmes training for about 350 programmes over a period of two years, while False Bay College Boat Building Academy will provide 30 three-year learnership programmes in practical boat building skills. Both training streams form part of the dti pilot project made possible by budget from the National Skills Fund as part of government’s mandate to support its Industrial Policy Action Plan.

False Bay College also welcomed their first intake of boat building recruits last month, which means both programmes are now up and running.

“That’s a significant milestone,” says SABBEX executive director Vanessa Davidson, who spearheaded the project during her tenure at the Marine Industry Association of South Africa. “I’ve been working on this for over three years, so it is great to see it coming together.”

Dawson says the training will help stimulate local manufacturing, thereby stemming the current troubling net skills outflow: “We are exporting all our skills and we need to try and keep them here,” she said. He explains that the training includes both a theory and practical component, with students benefiting from a full month of factory-floor mentoring. CTA will conduct the bulk of the training at its new training centre in Cape Town, with the remainder in Port Elizabeth and in Durban.

“Our focus in the initial learning is on the terminology, principles and concepts of polymer composites fabricating and with a strong emphasis on practical laminating techniques” Dawson says. “When the learners have been assessed and found competent we will try to get them into the industry. It is part of trying to resuscitate and grown the marine manufacturing sector. CTA’s objective is to become the centre of excellence for polymer composites skills and manager development for South Africa and Africa”

Composites skills are applicable to a range of industries, not just boat building, thereby improving job prospects. Said Dawson, “This project is marine based, but the beauty of it is that, should there be a lull in marine boat building, these skills can be used in a range of other sectors such as the manufacture of canopies or wind turbine blades, sports equipment, vehicle body parts. and pools. Polymer Composites are highly versatile and a material that is driving the 4th industrial revolution.”

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