The recently-opened Klerefontein Training Centre, situated near the site of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project in the small Karoo town of Carnarvon, is giving local high school learners the opportunity to become qualified electrical engineers.
Opened in May, the centre offers an accredited electrical engineering apprenticeship.
The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) initiated the artisan bursary programme in 2011. The training programme is aimed at, among other things, providing the MeerKAT and SKA radio telescopes with qualified artisans for their operations and maintenance.
Albert Brand, the Education Training and Development Practitioner at the Klerefontein Training Centre, explained that the centre trains high school learners from Carnarvon and the surrounding towns as artisans and makes them job ready.
The centre recently received accreditation that establishes it as a facility that not only offers training, but gives learners academic qualifications. “This training centre is good for the community of Carnarvon. It is not just a skills course. It gives learners a qualification,” said Brand.
“We have already had six learners receiving their electrical engineering qualifications. For these learners to reach this level of training, is excellent.
“If you look at the socio-economic challenges in Carnarvon, this programme will be good for the young people here,” he said.
Morgan Daba, from Williston, is one of the students who received a bursary to receive training from the centre. The 21-year-old said he was grateful to have received the opportunity.
Jolene George, 22, who is from Carnarvon, said she got on the training programme immediately after finishing her matric year.
“I am here for job training. I started at the SKA office in Cape Town for three months before I came to Klerefontein,” she said.
Once she completes the training programme, she will decide whether to try get into SKA or study further.
To become a qualified artisan, students must complete several theory courses, followed by eight months of practical training at an accredited facility. Thereafter, students are required to complete 18 months of on-the-job training, before they can write their trade test.
The Klerefontein Training Centre was established to provide the practical training component of the qualification, and currently focuses on training electrical artisans, which is the most urgent trade required by the MeerKAT and SKA project at this time. In time, if funds and resources permit, it may be expanded to accommodate other trades.
The training centre consists of a technical training workshop and a fully-equipped classroom.
The centre is partly accredited by the National Artisan Moderation Board (NAMB). The accreditation will be finalised once NAMB completes its final inspection.
Having a training centre in the Karoo region has significantly reduced the cost involved in training electrical artisans, because these students no longer need to be accommodated and trained at facilities located in Gauteng and elsewhere.
In addition, training the students “on-site” provides the opportunity for the students to complete their on-the-job training at the SARAO facility.