Global specialist in energy management, Schneider Electric South Africa has teamed up with the French Ministry of Education and the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) to launch a centre aimed at developing programmes to train technicians and higher technicians in the fields of energy, electricity and maintenance of automated systems.
Named the French-South African Schneider Electric Education Centre (F’SASEC), the new facility is in line with the Department of Higher Education and Training’s vision of accelerating artisan training across the country and will focus on preparing young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds for the job market. The first intake of students will be enrolled in April 2012.
This project enjoys the support of the Embassy of France in South Africa, under the auspices of its partnership programme (from the French Ministry of Education) with the South African government, and is aimed at addressing the shortage of disadvantaged, young, skilled South Africans.
According to Prof. Deon de Beer, Executive Director: Technology Transfer and Innovation (TTI) at the VUT, the purpose of the training centre is to provide a number of programmes in the field of energy, electricity, automation and renewable energies, from basic certification right through to advanced certifications, that are equivalent to university graduate and postgraduate level studies. In addition, it is his vision that the centre will act as a hub from which to support and service the community, educational institutions and industry.
“The centre was completely refurbished by VUT to provide a well equipped, state-of-the-art facility that is equipped with Schneider Electric educational systems, as well as intensive guidance and support to the students in order to ensure that they are well skilled and competent upon completion of their studies,” he explains. “It has been designed not only to assist the underprivileged to become a viable part of the local workplace, but also to allow professionals already within the market to further develop their skills.”
In terms of involvement in the centre, the French Ministry of Education, in collaboration with VUT, has provided infrastructure and will manage the process and supply technical experts to spearhead curriculum development, while Schneider Electric South Africa has kitted the centre out with the power supply, home automation, automation and renewable energy equipment needed for training and research.
“Schneider Electric has also agreed to place qualified students into a working environment so that they can be mentored by a qualified artisan within the industry for a period of six months,” explains Carl Kleynhans, Schneider Electric South Africa country president. “This is to ensure that they display the necessary competence to operate successfully within this sector.”
In addition, the French Ministry of Education has committed to find placements for qualified experts for more than three years.
Furthermore, the Schneider Electric Foundation, an organisation under the aegis of the Fondation de France that is dedicated to concrete and sustainable training, reconstruction and awareness projects around energy management, has provided additional funding toward the total project from an infrastructure perspective. For the coming years, it will continue funding the project with scholarships and support to self-entrepreneurship.
“Schneider Electric South Africa is proud to be associated with an initiative of this calibre,” adds Kleynhans. “We truly believe that the centre will be instrumental in increasing our local skills pool, empowering graduates to start their own businesses and, ultimately creating broader employment opportunities.”