Leading iron ore miner, African Minerals has moved to engage government and higher learning institutions in Sierra Leone to boast capacity in the mining sector in anticipation of the sector’s potential growth in the coming years. Convened and hosted by the minister of education, Dr. Minkailu Bah, a consultative meeting, starting the process, also brought in the minister of mines and mineral resources, Minkailu Mansaray and Professor Jonas Abioseh Sylvanus Redwood-Sawyerr, the Vice Chancellor and principal of the University of Sierra Leone.
The company has described the move as part of its revised corporate social responsibilities, contained in its new strategic management plans that seek to improve the capacity and skills of the youth thereby transforming them into to productive agents of national development.
“The lack of adequate numbers of personnel with marketable skills needed in the mining industry has been a source of concern and has resulted in the importation of expatriates to function at both middle level and professional cadres,” the company said, adding that the discussions were centred on strategies to address that gap and ensure a more sustainable operation and sector growth.
The meeting concluded that while certain skills were readily available, there was need to upgrade their competencies to tackle more demanding tasks in the mining value chain. The AML and government collaboration aims at developing traders’ personnel to provide artisanal support; producing graduate mining engineers for the mining community; assisting in technical development of workshops and instructional resources and providing support through scholarships.
The minister of education, representing the government, informed the meeting of government’s approval of AML’s request to upgrade and takeover the management of Magburaka Technical Institute through curriculum development and the resourcing of the workshops and infrastructure.
He disclosed that admission into the programme would not be restricted to AML staff and that graduates would be at liberty to seek employment anywhere. He commended the company for their partnership and expressed his anticipation for the successful implementation of the activities planned.
Graham Foyle-Twining, AML’s global head of human resources and sustainable development, registered his company’s appreciation for the opportunity to partner with government and the university toward achieving a common goal of capacity building for national development. He emphasised the need for transfer of skills to local staff at all levels of their operations, thereby eventually reducing the number of expatriate staff required for their operations.
He informed the meeting of the manpower gap predicted in the mining industry worldwide which further underscored the urgency in the training programmes being discussed.
Executive Chairman SL Ltd emphasised AML’s corporate vision and their desire to raise the skills level and professional base of workers in the industry.
“Recruiting local personnel was advantageous to the company’s image and output, not to mention the potential for savings,” he said, noting his contacts with the university over the years and his appreciation of the consultative meeting, which he hoped would be the beginning of many such meetings among stakeholders.
Minister of mineral resources, thanked AML for the gesture and said it was a novelty that a company would provide training not only for its consumption but for the wider sector of the public.
He promised to resuscitate the consultations with the USL in the operation of its mining engineering programme in response to an earlier correspondence sent by the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Ing. A.B. Savage.
Vice Chancellor and principal, University of Sierra Leone, Prof Redwood-Sawyerr described the structure of the engineering programme at Fourah Bay College as well as the other constituent colleges of the USL, as good.
As a former dean of the faculty of Engineering and head of department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, he still performed services to the faculty and conveyed the enthusiasm of the Dean, Ing. Savage for his initiative.
The professor opined that while capacity was being built for the technical and professional cadres, there was a silent cadre of artisans that is illiterate but very skilled in the various disciplines and they need to be certified too.
He suggested that the programme at the Magburaka Technical Institute under the new management might want to consider a certification process for such tradesmen toward a master craftsman certificate.
The meeting concluded by agreeing to set up a steering committee to move the process forward consisting of representatives from the USL, the Ministries of Education and Mineral Resources, AML and NCTVA; hold meetings and embark on site visits should be arranged for the week commencing 11 February, 2013; effort should be made to ensure international standards so as to ensure an attractive programme that would serve Sierra Leone and the sub-region.
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