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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  10 Nov 2008

TECHNOLOGY: Northlink's New Partnership


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CONTRARY to what the name suggests, toolmaking does not involve the manufacture of ‘tools’ such as hammers and screwdrivers. Toolmaking is the production of moulds to make completed items, such as moulds for bottles, appliances and vehicle components.

It is a specialist metals and engineering skill area in which trades people called toolmakers work. Toolmakers are highly skilled in their craft and, in some countries are described as ‘engineers’ or metal-working technicians.

There are several opportunities available to grow and stimulate the local toolmaking industry in South Africa.

According to Victor Winn (campus manager of Cape Town’s Wingfield Campus of Northlink College) who was involved in a National Tooling Initiative (NTI) visit to USA, Minneapolis Minnesota, an international toolmaking partnership was formed to assist the development of technical skills as part of the NTI of South Africa. The parties to this agreement are the NTI Programme of South Africa and Dakota County Technical College-Customized Training.

Victor says the visit gives Northlink College an opportunity to benchmark its approach in the training of toolmakers at Northlink College. During this visit the latest technologies being applied in the manufacturing industry eg: robotics, laser cutting technology, the use of CNC machines in the production of components and so on were experienced.

According to Winn, learners in the USA are exposed to technical education from the age of 14 years and are exposed to robotics, PLCs, carpentry, plumbing, architecture, the medical industry etc. “Career awareness must start at an early age. While I was compiling my report on the USA visit, I had the opportunity to question a learner who was in grade 4. I asked him if he knew what a Welder, Fitter and a Turner was. He did not know. I then asked him what a Teacher, Doctor and a Lawyer did. He knew. Something is drastically wrong,” says Winn.

Northlink College has been tasked to accelerate the process of equipping people with qualifications and skills they need to start out on a career path in the engineering field.

At Northlink College programmes in CNC Machining is offered. This programme consist of CAD and CAM training. These programmes enable technicians to design, develop and manufacture any possible parts used in applications for everyday use. CNC is used to design all these parts needed.

This is done by means of a special CNC language, using mathematical calculations and specific symbols. CNC also enable the technician to know the specific tools to be used for a design.

Mostly steel, metal and stainless steel are used in these programmes but are not limited to that.

Very often prospective students are in the engineering field already and then complete a CNC programme. However this is not a prerequisite, as students can also register for the CNC programme with a N2 or grade 12 qualifications with mathematics as subject.

“Students at Northlink College can gain integrated theoretical and practical experience. They are exposed to their chosen industry and have a meaningful qualification at the end of their studies. Students are equipped with skills that will lead to successful and rewarding careers in industries where they are much needed for their practical skills,” says Winn.

These qualifications are designed to provide the theory and practice. The practical component of study may be offered in a real workplace environment or in a simulated workplace environment. It will provide students with an opportunity to experience work situations during the period of study. After completion of this qualification, students are provided with an opportunity to enter into further studies, subject to appropriate subject combinations.

Some 80% of all the students studying at Northlink College find a job in their field of study before they have completed their studies, Winn says.

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