What is now termed an “artisan reclassification passing out parade” is today seeing the ranks of the SA Air Force’s technical staff boosted by 50.
68 Air School in Lyttelton, Centurion, is described as the foundation of technical training in the South African Air Force and is hosting the parade where SAAF Chief: Air Staff Governance, Major General LJ Selepe, is the review officer for the parade marking the successful completion of artisan courses in a number of aviation related disciplines. Those on parade have undergone training in various fields such as aircraft mechanics, aircraft structure, aircraft reconnaissance, electrical communication and aircraft welding, amongst others.
The SAAF said that during the parade, 50 learners will be honoured with trophies and certificates for their successful completion of their artisan courses. Amongst these 50 learners, 10 are women.
This initiative is part of an overall SAAF drive to improve its in-house maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities. These were severely dented starting four years ago, when some 530 technicians who had been employed under a 30 year old contract were retrenched as the contract was declared irregular by the Auditor General as it had been entered into by the pre-1994 government. Only 139 were retained by the SAAF to train replacement personnel. The final 61 were laid off in April 2016. They were employed by Denel’s Aero Manpower Group (AMG).
In 2013 SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang said the cancellation of the AMG contract had led to a skilled services agreement (SSA) being entered into with Denel Aviation to provide critical and scarce skills for an interim period.
To avert a recurrence of the AMG situation the SAAF designed and put in place a capability plan. It includes skills transfers from former AMG employees, now SSA authorised, to SAAF personnel; ongoing and targeted recruitment; optimal use of logistics systems and structures as well as improved technical personnel development, motivation and utilisation.
Msimang told a media briefing at AFB Waterkloof in 2013 the SAAF had “sufficient aviation artisans and technical officers to fill up to 90% of positions in the air force”.