Nigeria will never get it right with manufacturing when a sector as important as engineering fabrications is colonized by quacks who nothing little or nothing about fabrications. It’s quite sad to note that while engineering fabrications should be done by trained and certified technicians, technologists, and engineers, what is currently obtained in Nigeria is a system of apprenticeship where a 10 year old boy is sent off to understudy a fabricator who is a quack, himself. After 4 to 6 years, he “graduates” to become a quack fabricator who trains more quacks.
I write this with so much pains and disappointment. Once in a while I have need for metal fabrications. If you have dealt with Lagos welders, then you will know that most of them are almost illiterates in the welding profession. Aside from knowing to read measurements off a measuring tape and joining metals together, they know nothing about the theories of welding (which is big course of its own), properties of materials, how to produce quality welds, welding inspection, etc.
The worst part which got me so troubled last Friday was their inability to read technical drawings. I visited two welders with a simple technical draft of a plate with 8 holes. The sketch was very detailed that even a non-technical person would comprehend on first sight. (As a trained engineering draftsman, I know how to produce detailed engineering drawings which can be used for fabrications without me having to explain anything.) None of them could read the sketch. They didn’t know what the dimensions were pointing to. They couldn’t understand symmetry of the holes and how to relate to holes to the dimensions on paper. I had to add extra dimensions on the paper to make it even easier for them.
The Welder I decided to give the job to on Saturday told me he perfectly understood the sketch after spending over 30 minutes explaining it to him. I gave him some advance payment asking him to begin the production because I needed the plates on Monday. Lo and behold, on Monday, this man called me and asked me to come and help him because he didn’t know how to layout the sketch on a sheet plate and begin cutting all the plates (36 of them). I was so furious. When I’m expecting delivery, someone is telling me that he doesn’t even know how to begin the work?
I had to go to his shop and (under the scorching sun) sketch out the plate template on the sheet metal plate and carefully locate the holes on the plate so that he can begin cutting. I asked him if he didn’t learn technical drawings in secondary school. He told me he just learnt welding as an apprentice. That he didn’t attend any school for it.
These are the people fabricating metallic structures without considering the statics and dynamics affecting the structure. These are the people we trust to fabricate sensitive structures such as roofs, car ports, Bulgar-proof doors, etc. for us.
There should be minimum requirements for being a welder. It should not be a profession for quacks who learnt through apprenticeship. There should be certified schools for learning fabrications and nobody should operate without a welding certification.
NSE and COREN are bodies of engineers in the country and hope they will look into this largely-ignored group of people.
CEO of Furnish.Ng