Murray & Roberts
Inspection training on a drill rig underway at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy

Unemployed youth from communities near Murray & Roberts Cementation’s mining projects around South Africa are getting a life-changing opportunity to enter the mining sector.

Through the accredited training programmes at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy (MRTA), 176 young jobless learners have already embarked on a journey towards completing the learnership programme this year that will leverage better opportunities for them to be absorbed by the mining industry.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 11, 2019
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Tony Pretorius, education, training and development executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation, says the company remains confident that another 120 community trainees will be engaged in 2020.

“The Mining Qualifications Authority has awarded grants to fund this fantastic initiative, and we sourced learners in collaboration with the various local authorities and our clients in those sending areas within our operations that are widespread across most regions,” says Pretorius.

The six-month learnership programme earns the trainees a Level 2 National Certificate in Health, Safety and Environment for Mining and Minerals. The trainees selected represent a 50:50 gender split, to support the industry’s efforts to engage more women in mining.

“The focus is on various essential mining skills for the underground, hard rock environment,” says Pretorius.

“This covers aspects of mining, engineering and construction, with specific elements such as pipes and ventilation; installation of support units; occupational health and safety; intermediate level rigging; basic fire-fighting and working at heights.”

Such study equips the learners with entry level skills required by industry, making them ready for employment opportunities as they arise.

So confident is Murray & Roberts Cementation in the quality of this training, that the company takes up most of the learners into its own operations.

“When any of our operations needs these skills, we look first to this skills pool to fill the need,” Pretorius says.

“We have managed to find job opportunities for most of the learners who successfully complete the course.”

In fact, Pretorius goes a step further by planning in advance to absorb as many trainees as possible.

He first examines the company’s ongoing projects in terms of their respective progress, analysing the labour ramp-up that each project predicts over the following six months.

“I can then identify precisely which entry-level skills will be required at each project site by the time our six-month training cycle is complete,” he says.

“Our training programme is then adapted to ensure that it includes the skill areas required by that particular project location.”

This optimises the absorption rate of qualified learners. The MRTA also works with its mining clients providing training of their employees, which prepares these young learners for clients’ future skills needs.

He emphasises that the mining sector’s focus on ‘Zero Harm’ in the workplace also places particular demands on the training outcomes.

“This means that a learner must be acutely aware of not only their expected tasks, but also the many dangers of the working environment,” he says.

“Here, our training has been very successful in giving them this understanding. Not one of our successful trainees has been involved in an accident or incident since the initial rollout of the programme, which really indicates that this programme is value adding.”

Pretorius highlights the unique way that learning at MRTA is structured, in a blended learning model that includes classroom lectures, e-learning, simulations and integrated learning in a workplace mock-up.

It has recently upgraded its Bentley Park infrastructure by adding, for instance, to its practical mock-ups of a trackless, mechanised operation.

The additions include various mock-up structures to familiarise learners with working underground in a mechanised mine. Among the new facilities is an indexing wall for drill rig operators to practice drilling on a horizontal plane.

There is also a new tunnel to practically teach learners how to take line and grade and accurately marking-off a development end with laser technology.

“An important addition to improve our training for mechanised work is our board-and-pillar layout on surface,” he says.

“This allows for more effective, practical and supervised training for most primary and secondary mechanised activities.”

The fleet of trackless vehicles on site includes load-haul-dumpers, a drill rig, a bolter, a telescopic boom handler, a mechanical scaler and a mechanised shotcreting unit.