Young talent vital for business transformation, sustainability
16 October 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201916717
THE youth talent pipeline is the lifeblood of sustainability for South African businesses and is key to transforming the country’s economic landscape.
That’s according to Weir Minerals Africa’s Learning and Development Manager, Christia Uys, as she described the success being achieved by the company’s skills development programmes.
“We recruit and train young people to drive the energy and transformation of the business, by focusing on their skills and commitment,” said Uys. “Rather than just head-hunting, we work to transform the business from within, while building a sustainable business.”
She emphasised that their trainees are not only embarking on a training programme but are embraced as a functioning part of the organisation. This growth of talent from within can, when conducted well, ensure the trainees feel part of the business and its culture and empowered to contribute.
“In our programmes, they are part of the business from day one and have a job to do with key performance areas. From the start, they have responsibilities and are active partners in meeting our business targets. Throughout the programme, there are people to develop, train and mentor them.”
The company’s development initiatives include a bursary scheme, a graduate programme, internships and apprenticeships. Uys said that to achieve impact in skills development, there must be buy-in among line managers. If the selection of learners is seen as just a human resources function, they will not get the ongoing support they need in their work.
“This is why Weir Minerals Africa is careful to involve all stakeholders within the business when we make selections. This way, the whole organisation commits to the development of our young entrants.”
The bursary programme focuses on the four disciplines most in demand by the business – mechanical, metallurgical, chemical and industrial engineering. There are also opportunities in finance, HR and marketing.
“We want to prioritise sustainability of our business, so we focus on disciplines and skills which we can absorb directly into the business. Once the students complete their degrees, they are considered for the two-year graduate programme.”
Uys said the careful selection and nurturing of bursars – which includes employing them during semester breaks – results in a significant proportion of them being employed by the company in permanent roles after the programme. There are usually about 15 to 20 graduates in the programme in any given year.
There are also interns in the business, who are employed while they study part-time for their BTech Degrees. Finally, there is a substantial apprenticeship programme with 23 apprentices this year, including a high proportion of women. There are four areas of specialisation – fitters, fitter and turners, moulders and millwrights. Each apprenticeship runs for four years and includes theoretical classroom based training and on-the-job training to help prepare them for their trade tests.
Uys said customers definitely appreciate and support the skills development pipeline.
“This is evident in the confidence that customers have in the ability of our younger staff who have been through our training programmes. Within months of completing their time as trainees, some are already winning tenders and securing contracts and passing on skills to newer entrants.”
Alongside their role within the company, trainees are also encouraged to ‘pay it forward’ in the community, she says. This means being involved in community projects and motivating younger learners at school career days, by sharing their own life story.