A few of the students from the programme. Image credit: CHIETA

A few of the students from the programme. Image credit: CHIETA

CHIETA, the Chemical Industry’s Education and Training Authority, embarked on the implementation of a pilot project: blended learning approach through a coded welding skills programme that explored face to face, online, welding simulation and practical learning in line with technology’s trajectory worldwide.

The project closing event is at West Coast College, Vredenburg Campus, Western Cape, 17 February 2023.

The pilot project had accommodated 115 students at six TVET colleges in four provinces and is part of CHIETA’s ongoing drive to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Yershen Pillay, CHIETA’s CEO, says the blended learning approach is also an indirect response to an instruction from the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation for SETAs to revise their skills development initiatives in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Buti Manamela stated that the challenges presented by the pandemic created opportunities for training service providers to accelerate digital-based skills development strategies. These strategies were envisioned to re-skill, trans-skill, and up-skill large numbers of workers to take up opportunities within existing enterprises or start new businesses and co-operatives.

Manamela added that where possible, online delivery of training programmes must be promoted as the new normal, and obstacles to this methodology must be removed. He noted that the 4IR necessitates faster digital transformation and automation of work processes – and with that come new skills requirements.

He says that the project provides the TVET colleges with the opportunity to improve the quality of their training, while also ensuring that recommendations on the implementation of a blended learning approach can be developed within the sector going forward.

“From the lessons learnt by the TVET colleges through the blended learning approach, we will be in a stronger position to establish best practices that advance job creation and boost the country’s economic prospects,” notes Manamela.

CHIETA has explored wide-ranging new approaches in the digitisation of skills development, which included in-depth research into the status of e-learning and e-assessments. Pillay notes, “The implementation of this pilot project is one of the recommendations of this research.”

The coded welding programme’s blended learning approach has four key components, which are:

  • On-line learning
  • Face-to-face learning
  • Virtual welding
  • Practical learning in welding workshops

“Our programme’s comprehensive curriculum was developed with participation by several stakeholders and is registered with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and supported by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET),” Pillay adds.

“This pilot project holds benefits for the participating TVET colleges, as well as for the wider skills development sector within our SETA’s sphere of operation,” he says.

The pilot project was implemented at the following TVET colleges that applied for and were awarded grants from CHIETA Strategic Projects Discretionary Grants funding window of April 2021:

  • West Coast College, Vredenburg – Western Cape
  • Boland College – Worcester – Western Cape
  • College of Cape Town, Thornton – Western Cape
  • Umfolozi College, Richards Bay – KwaZulu-Natal
  • Maluti College, Kwetlisong – Free State
  • Gert Sibande College, Standerton – Mpumalanga

The average training period on the coded welding programme is about six months, but the Memoranda of Agreement (MoAs) signed by the TVET colleges with CHIETA were valid from August 2021 to December 2022. The colleges started their training at different times – three started in November 2021 and three in mid-January 2022. The pilot project was finally closed in October 2022 with final assessments set centrally by the CHIETA in order to standardise the project and give it a unique status.

Pillay explains that coded welders are individuals who have completed a Welder Approval Test in a specific welding configuration. “Coded welders stand a better chance of employment than non-coded welders and they have the skills needed to work in highly regulated environments and sectors.”