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.