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FQM targets skills and knowledge transfer for Zambians

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A driver undergoes intensive training in one of FQM’s high-tech truck simulators

Skills and knowledge transfer have been identified as a key driver of long-term sustainable employment in the mining industry by First Quantum Minerals (FQM).

As the mining industry continues to push the boundaries of automation, the country’s largest copper miner has observed that a long-term solution is required to address the skills gap between expatriates and local people that reflects a shortage of highly skilled and qualified employees.

Just under 6 percent of the company’s workforce at FQM’s flagship Kansanshi mine in Solwezi are expatriates, with a similar level at the newer Sentinel mine at Kalumbila.
“We want to create an enabling environment where any employee in the company can grow from being a general worker and progressively rise through the ranks. It is for this reason we have prioritised skills and knowledge transfer, and made it the focus of our development agenda. There is a lot of potential for our employees, and to maximise the opportunities requires the opportunity and environment to learn new things,” said FQM country manager General Kingsley Chinkuli.

The company suggested that one of the solutions to the lack of skilled labour in the ever-changing mining sector is to involve industry specialists in the teaching process wherever possible.

“Local community members on our database are screened based on attitude, aptitude and against prequalification criteria for annual vocational training opportunities offered by Sentinel mine and the Trident Foundation, to empower them to take on more skilled roles. Currently 151 local community members are on various training programmes,” said Gen. Chinkuli.

As at end of April 2017, 427 out of 2,559 production-level employees came from Sentinel Mine’s local recruitment database. And the mining firm has made it clear that standards will not be compromised during recruitment, and successful candidates must have the necessary skills for the job. Not only is this a requirement to ensure productivity, but more importantly it is a safety requirement.

“Sentinel Mine is an equal opportunity employer and embraces Zambia’s diversity. We do our best to provide suitable employment opportunities to local community members through a local recruitment database of local community members established with traditional leaders, and a local baseline census,” he said.

Development of the local economy in which company operates is a key priority identified during on-going dialogue with local communities. Opportunities for local entrepreneurs exist from increased demand in the new Kalumbila town and the goods and services that can be provided competitively for mining.

The mining firm believes that direct employment is one of the key benefits a mine delivers in terms of social and economic impact. Skills training, entrepreneurial programmes and efforts to foster local economic development are also vital for long-term sustainable prosperity.

Consistent with FQM’s local employment policy aimed at giving preference to people from surrounding communities, 940 of the Sentinel production-level employees are from North-Western Province out of the total direct workforce of 2,559 at Sentinel.
Sentinel’s sister mine, Kansanshi, employs some 5,140 direct employees.

The mining industry has a growing shortage of professionals who can manage projects and drive strategic initiatives. One reason for this is a general lack of skills and experience. Because promotion today is rapid, many young professionals simply have not been able to accumulate sufficient on-the-job experience in the available timeframe, and a typical mining school curriculum leaves gaps that have to be filled with onsite training and experience,” explained Simon Houlding is Vice-President of Professional Development for InfoMine Inc.

Houlding, who also responsible for EduMine, the professional development division which provides learning and training programmes to the global mining industry said: “A second reason is the growing tendency for professionals from other industries to cross over to mining and find themselves in need of mining-specific training. There just aren’t enough mining professionals with appropriate skills and 10 to 15 years of mining experience to take over from retiring baby boomers in management positions.”

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