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Stainless Course 'Bridging the Gap'


Posted 17 May 1999

The Regency Institute of TAFE (Elizabeth Campus) in Adelaide has developed an exciting new course that will 'bridge the gap' in knowledge about the welding and fabrication of stainless steel.

Until now there have been only three fabrication and welding training modules available in Australia and they have all applied to light sheet metal. The need for a practical course to teach skills for heavier gauge stainless steel was identified by the Regency Institute of TAFE.

After close consultation with industry, the Regency Institute developed new modules that will fill this need by teaching skills appropriate for upskilling of existing workers and training new ones. Unlike existing courses, which focus on teaching skills to new workers (apprentices) only, this course also targets existing workers.

Three stainless steel welding modules, TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding, MIG (metal inert gas) welding and MMA (manual metal arc) welding have been developed to assist to address the skill shortage.

The modules have been nationally accredited. This allows them to be taken up by learning institutions and organisations Australia-wide and to be accepted as training towards a recognised qualification.

John Coudraye of the Regency Institute of TAFE (Elizabeth Campus) explained the campus was fortunate to have received a capital grant from the South Australian government to purchase capital equipment for the course.

"The grant was given as part of the government's strategic development plan for training," John said.

"Ten of our staff were also sent to Cigweld in Victoria to train for four days in technology and consumables in stainless steel and welding."

The program commences on 3 May, with 12 workers from the Barossa Valley being upskilled. The participants will complete the three modules developed by the Regency Institute of TAFE as well as an additional three light fabrication modules with an emphasis on heavy gauge material.

In addition to its upskilling focus, the course will also be incorporated into apprenticeship training.

Although apprenticeship training is currently available in Melbourne, the Regency Institute of TAFE's course will make a significant contribution to the development of a skilled workforce of stainless steel specialists, particularly important to the growing wine industry in South Australia.

The need for apprentice training in stainless steel was confirmed in 1996 by research conducted by NIETL in conjunction with Melbourne based ASTEP (Alignment of Skills Training to Employment).

At that time, apprentice training focused on various materials (such as carbon steel) and was not meeting the skills needs of stainless steel employers, including the large conglomerate of stainless steel industry in the northern region of Melbourne.

ASTEP conducted a survey which identified a need for full skilling, semiskilling and upgrading of skills in the stainless steel industry.

They chose to focus on full-skilling (apprenticeship) as the underpinning issue. A stainless steel apprentice course was developed with the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE and launched in 1997.

Now in its third year, ongoing improvements to the course have seen it develop increased understanding between training providers and participants and their employers, especially through its mentor scheme.

Australia's stainless steel industry employs between 7,000 to 1 0,000 people nationally and adds more than $1.1 billion to the economy each year. These two courses pave the way for further developments in the challenge to provide adequate training to establish a skilled workforce of stainless steel specialists.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 13, May 1999.

Lissel Pilcher