A new training centre is helping the youth of Carnarvon to reach for the stars.
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 providing the MeerKAT and SKA radio telescopes with qualified artisans for their operations and maintenance.
Klerefontein Training Centre education training and development practitioner Albert Brand 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 offers training and academic qualifications.
“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.
Jolene George (22) who is from Carnarvon, started the training programme immediately after matric.
“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. It focuses on training electrical artisans, which is currently the most urgent trade required by the MeerKAT and SKA project. In time 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 at facilities located in Gauteng and elsewhere.
In addition, training the students on-site provides the opportunity for them to complete their on-the-job training at the SARAO facility.