NDT SHOWCASE STRIVES TO BRING CHANGES TO STUDENTS’ EXPERIENCES IN INDUSTRY
By: Puleng Maphisa 07 November 2022
On the 1st of November 2022, the Vaal University of Technology (VUT), Mathematics, Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) and Physics Department hosted industry representatives and NDT stakeholders for a showcasing day of their full-time qualification offerings in NDT. The showcase was for industry representatives to be taken on guided tours of the training laboratories and discuss the importance of the NDT programmes in improving equipment inspection procedures in the South African industry. Further, they were engaged on advising on best practice in student recruitment strategies.
The event was graced with the presence of VUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Dan Kgwadi and NDT Chair of the Advisory Board Committee from Eskom, Mr Morris Maroga.
Prof Kgwadi, in his speech, noted that the NDT diploma had for many years been encountering challenges when it came to companies absorbing the students. “Nonetheless, as VUT is a university of technology, it must focus more on the practical applications of the programmes offered, as compared to traditional universities, and therefore must endeavour to provide its students with the best quality of education,” he said.
Professor Dan Kgwadi, VUT Vice-Chancellor & Principal
Mr Maroga admitted that all along, the Southern Africa Institute of Welding (SAIW) was the only institution – without much competition – who were offering NDT Level Certification training that was preferred by industry. In 2019, Professor Raymond Mabuza and Dr Ike Sikakana came to visit Eskom for a meeting about the VUT’s challenges of acceptance of the diploma students in industry.
“From the day I discovered the challenges, I started thinking about the status quo of NDT in this country and comparing it to the rest of the world. I read a few newspaper publications which were criticizing the NDT qualification, and the fact that the graduates from this institution were being overlooked by industry, and I took it upon myself to change the status quo. We started having meetings with the service providers to see how we could realign the NDT sector to move forward. We became fortunate that at the same time, the South African Qualification and Certification Committee on NDT (SAQCC – NDT) was formed [by the Department of Employment and Labour]. We now had the mandate to work on realigning the sector,” said Mr Maroga.
The delegates who were from the NDT users, services providers and equipment suppliers were taken on walkabouts to the NDT laboratories for them to see the equipment and quality of practical lessons that VUT offers to the students.
One of the challenges completing students face is industry placement for the Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) component of the diploma programme. Students have continually highlighted the fact that most NDT companies look for Level Certification when hiring personnel. The NDT Level Certification training (short course of one or two weeks) is provided by private institutions and schools, whose fees are awfully expensive, and this negatively affects the employment opportunities of the VUT NDT graduates.
Companies like Eskom have highlighted what they look for when absorbing NDT students for internships. After the laboratory visits, delegates were extremely impressed with the equipment and specimen used for training. In fact, most acknowledged that they did not expect to find laboratories of such a high standard and thus commended VUT and promised to continue taking VUT students for training.
Companies further encouraged VUT to train their students more thoroughly during laboratory practicals to instil confidence and competence so that the transition to inspecting real components in industry is achieved in a short space of time.
The NDT department promised to continue exceling in tutoring their students so as to meet the requirements needed by companies.