Tackling skills shortage in mining

The Mining Qualifications Authority is a statutory body established in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act (No 29 of 1996).

The Mining Qualifications Authority is a statutory body established in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act (No 29 of 1996).

With the introduction of the Skills Development Act (No 97 of 1998) it was registered as the Seta for mining and minerals.

The authority (MQA) has a number of initiatives in place to tackle the shortage of skills in the mining industry.

Livhu Nengovhela, MQA's chief executive, says: "A major challenge of the sector is that of transformation and meeting the mining charter's targets. The MQA is well positioned to help the industry to meet its transformation agenda.

"Employers can use the opportunities provided by the MQA through skills programmes and learnerships to attract and develop people from different racial groups as well as developing women," Nengovhela said.

Next year will see the first review of the charter and while the racial composition among staff is better, there are still many more opportunities to improve.

The MQA developed a Mining Charter Support Strategy in 2004 to help mining companies to meet their 2009 obligations through skills development. In addition, the industry is confronted with change. An area receiving a lot of attention is beneficiation, which will require the development of further skill sets.

Initially the unit standard based qualifications were met with a lot of resistance, but when the MQA granted funds for such training, perceptions changed. Now there is also quality assurance and consistency and the authority helped to bring standards.

Other successes include increasing industry participation, a high level of corporate governance and large numbers of beneficiaries of the programmes. The MQA helped train many people who are now employed and making a contribution.

The sector has very large numbers of employees requiring Abet as illiteracy is very high. Once trained, they become candidates for learnerships and are able to complete them very quickly since they have been doing the work for years. They then also have greater opportunities to progress.

Training initiatives support transformation and employment equity one hundred percent and work in close collaboration with stakeholders to ensure that a meaningful contribution to achieve BEE in mining is made.

The MQA has five key operating units that work together. The skills development department is responsible for facilitating the research and planning of skills development initiatives, focus on skills development support for small-scale miners, support SMMEs with minerals beneficiation skills development projects, improve SMME participation in the levy-grant system, promote access for women and entrepreneurs and promote Abet.

The SGB (Standards Generating Body) department ensures that the sector has an updated qualifications framework in place, that the relevant qualifications are developed and registered on the National Qualifications Framework and that the relevant supporting unit standards are developed and registered. This unit also develops skills programmes and learnerships and ratifies supporting learning material development.

The learning programmes department supports the registration of pupils into learnerships and the registration and administration of skills programmes. It also administers MQA apprenticeships and the development of learning materials. The unit is responsible for maintaining pupil records, currently in excess of one million.

The ETQA (quality assurance) department is responsible for accrediting training providers, monitoring and auditing learner achievements, registering assessors and moderators and issuing certificates for qualifications, learnerships and skills programmes.