Johannesburg, South Africa — 08 May 2013 – The number of first-year mining students at the Witwatersrand University School of Mining Engineering in South Africa has surpassed all expectations in 2013, reaching record levels that will contribute towards solving the industry’s skill shortages.
According to Professor Fred Cawood, head of the School of Mining Engineering at Wits, the word is out that mining is a good career choice for a young South African looking for a secure job after graduation.
In less than 15 years, the number of first year students registering in the department has risen from 43 in 1999 to 302 at the beginning of this year.
There has been a particularly sudden jump since 2012, requiring that the first year intake be split into two streams to keep class sizes manageable. The school is also hiring more staff to meet this increased demand.
Professor Cawood said the school was pleased with the demand for its courses, despite the extra pressure that this placed on its resources. It was already putting extra effort into academic and other support for new students, to give them the best possible chance of success.
Extra maths and physics classes on Saturdays have been one way to address the lack of academic preparedness for university.
“The outcomes-based education (OBE) system in South Africa simply does not prepare students well enough for engineering studies,” he said. “This is evidenced by the fact that their grade 12 marks bear no relation to the marks that they get at university.”
The other main area of support is financial and logistical.
“Less than 30% of our students have a support system in Johannesburg; many of them have never even been in Gauteng before,” said Professor Cawood. “Many first-year students are the first in their families ever go to university – so they are not sure what is required when they arrive, and often there is inadequate provision for accommodation and meals.
“In other cases, students have been booked into sub-optimal living arrangements, which are not conducive to learning.
Source: Witwatersrand University School of Mining Engineering.