From simple gadgets to specialised devices, from vehicles to space ships and from buildings to bridges, welding is an integral part of manufacturing. With the use of advanced technology, tools, and equipment, welding proves to have a great future and promises a great career option for the youth in India. In this Skill Story, Vishwanath Kamath, Managing Director at Fronius India Private Limited, talks about image building of the welding profession, current training situation in India and the steps taken by Fronius India in leveraging the potential of the youth. Read on to know more.
Q: What are the industry verticals in which Fronius operates in terms of its products and services?
A: Fronius is an Austrian company and Fronius India is a daughter company of Fronius International. We have entered into our 75th year of operation. We have three different businesses – Solar Energy, Perfect Welding, and Perfect Charging. Fronius India is the only subsidiary in Asia which handles all the three businesses. I am responsible for perfect welding, solar energy as well as perfect charging in India and for SAARC countries.
When it comes to perfect welding, we are one of the dominant market players in supplying welding equipment. We have close to 27,000 Fronius welding machines working in India currently in many industry sectors.
Wherever welding has a role to play, Fronius’ presence is found there. I also take pride in sharing that we are one of the major partners of the Government of India for their defence projects and space projects.
In the automotive sector, almost all the cars that are produced in this country have at least a few parts welded using Fronius. We believe in providing total solutions to the customers rather than just the product supply.
Q: Could you tell us about contribution from Fronius towards the quality of higher education and skill development in welding?
In India, welding is not perceived as a job for the highly-qualified. Not just in India, but in many other developing countries too, welding is seen as a low-level job. Contrary to the popular perception, welding is neither dusty nor dirty; it is more of a clean and clever job. When done with utmost passion, it energises all your senses, where one can see, smell, hears, and touch.
Also, this has to do with the way the curriculum is designed in India. Most of the engineering colleges do not emphasise the importance of practical welding. Engineering students practice on a couple of machines from a neighbourhood shop just to get through the exam. But they do not realise that without welding nothing can be produced, especially in the manufacturing sector. One of the biggest challenges of welding companies in India is the lack of skilled workforce like welders, welding engineers, and salespersons for welding equipment and welding consumables.
From the very beginning, our aim is to enhance the aspirational value of the profession by portraying welding as a glamorous field and not as something that you see on the roadside, done unprofessionally.
To change this perception we are partnering with some of the leading universities and educational institutions. In 2014, we had organised a trip to Austria for many Heads of the Departments and Principals to show them skilling at Fronius. Our aim was to educate and change their mindsets.
We started our first Centre of Excellence (CoE) for welding at A K Garg College of Engineering, Ghaziabad. We set up a full-fledged welding technology system. Now, it’s into the fifth year of its operation. Even a novice can become an expert in welding by enrolling for a course at the CoE. Later, we spread this across many colleges like the C. V. Raman College of Engineering, Bhubaneswar; PSG college of Technology, Coimbatore; few colleges in the western region of India; with the Government of Uttar Pradesh and in some of the NITs and IITs across India.
We work closely with academicians so that they ignite a spark and energy in their students to choose welding as a career option.
Skill development is not just something we do to train someone to be a welder. We have a huge dearth of Welding Engineers in India. Only when you have the right welding engineer, we have the right welder. It is good news that the dignity of labour is improving in India, and will improve more. Earlier, a welding engineer would never hold a welding electrode in his hand, as he/she would think it is not their work. But today that notion is changing. In our own company, we have four welding engineers who only do welding.
Related Article: National Welding League helps women welders to weld wonders Read More: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/national-welding-league-helps-women-welders-to-weld-wonders/
Q: How do we go deeper into welding and leverage youth potential in India?
A: Recently, when I was at C. V. Raman College of Engineering for women welding competitions, I noticed that most of them were Diploma or Degree holders. It shows that they have realised that having a degree does not suffice and you need to have a skill. Fronius India is committed to improving the skills of the youth. In Pune, we conduct a free training program on the first Friday of every month, for welding enthusiasts. This is also being replicated in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Delhi. On average, we train close to 100 people in a month.
The basic idea of these training programs is to make people get attracted to welding so that they can choose welding as a career option and earn better salaries. It has been running successfully for over a year now. By doing this we want to make welding aspirational by choice and not by force.
We are also using social media to wipe out the myths and educate people. India has a great opportunity to leverage the demographic dividend by sending skilled welders to countries with an ageing population. For instance, while the average welder population in the USA is 55 years and same is the case with many European countries too.
Q: How are you promoting women in the welding profession?
A: We are the principal sponsors for the National Welding League for Women Welding Professionals. These competitions coincide with the International Women’s Day every year, and they follow WorldSkills format. Last year we had about 140 women welders participating in this competition, this year it increased to 225 women welding professionals. In the coming years, we would like to take this to a higher level.
Q: What do you think about the current training situation of welding in India?
A: There is a lot that needs to be improved! For example, in ITIs the duration of a welding program is just one year and training is very basic and doesn’t meet the industry needs.
The future looks promising as the government is setting up a few Centres of Excellence (CoE) for welding. We are also in talks with some of the state governments to set up something similar centres. Calling someone a “welder” also could be an issue even though it is a high paying job. Perhaps, we should call them a Joining Specialist as he/she joins the metals using a number of methods.