Investing in the youth

The SKA SA project seeks to encourage our best young people to pursue careers in science and technology, and to create expertise in cutting-edge technologies.

Youngsters living in towns close to the SKA site are benefitting from training opportunities that have come with the project, as well as potential jobs.

Since 2011, 40 young people in the Northern Cape have been awarded bursaries aimed at equipping them with the professional skills that will make it possible for them to work for SKA South Africa and in the industry.

The programme is aimed at building the required capacity for the telescope and operations team working with the MeerKAT telescope.

Currently, 19 students supported by SKA South Africa are completing their N1, N2 and N3 courses at Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges (previously known as FET colleges) in Kimberley and Bloemfontein. An additional 10 students are being supported for their technical training.

Five of the bursary holders are already employed full-time with SKA South Africa and by 2017, more bursary holders will have potentially found employment within the organisation. Their trades range from fitting and turning to diesel mechanics, boilermaking, instrumentation and control, and electronics.

SKA South Africa partnered with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, JMC Technical, Adcorp and other training centres where the students complete their third and fourth stages of qualification.

The courses are structured into a four-month bridging course, followed by another eight months of theory, divided into four months of a National Certificate 1 course and another four months for a National Certificate 2 course. This is followed by eight months of practical training at a SETA-approved training centre plus 18 to 24 months of on-the-job training.

A month of pre-trade qualification followed by one day of trade testing completes the rigorous training to qualify as an artisan.

In brief

SKA SA sponsors five matric learners’ bursaries to study science and engineering-related fields from 2016. The learners achieved matric exemptions in maths and science, a first for Carnarvon High School.

SKA SA has awarded more than 40 student bursaries since 2011.

SKA SA has supported more than 116 Masters students and 52 PhD students as well as funded six research chairs at South African universities.

SKA SA bursaries have supported the training of seven young people, who are now completing their training at the Losberg site, 90 kilometres outside Carnarvon and will start work in industry once their training is completed. They will work as electricians, fitters and turners; and in instrumentation and control.

SKA SA has employed four local young people from Carnarvon as interns after they have received training in optical fibre technology.

So far, SKA SA has spent more than R2.5 million on laptops, training and connectivity, with 366 new computers with state-of-the-art software being donated to schools and the library in Carnarvon.

The SKA SA supports the training of young people in various trades ranging from fitting and turning to diesel mechanics, boilermaking, instrumentation and control, and electronics.

SKA SA apprentices engaged in the construction of the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array radio telescope (HERA) at the Losberg premises outside Carnarvon.

The SKA SA have created jobs in several areas in the Northern Cape.