FLSmidth builds solid skills base for local, global succession

FLSmidth’s considerable investment in skills development nurtures local talent providing a strong pipeline of relevant and quality expertise.
FLSmidth’s considerable investment in skills development nurtures local talent providing a strong pipeline of relevant and quality expertise.

Building on its extensive investment in the South African economy, FLSmidth develops vital skills at its dedicated Training Academy in Chloorkop near Midrand, Gauteng. Building local expertise is a key aspect of the company’s global succession strategy, and also generates the crucial know-how to grow the continent’s manufacturing and support base.

According to the FLSmidth Training Academy Head Steve Parkinson, the training underpins the ground-up succession strategy of ensuring long term competence within the business – with the depth to embrace evolving technologies that continuously improve its offerings.

“Our considerable investment in skills development nurtures local talent to provide us with a strong pipeline of relevant and quality expertise,” says Parkinson. “This knowledge base is shared within FLSmidth not only across the continent but globally. At the same time, we invariably train more people than we can absorb, so we provide a rich resource of trained individuals for other players in the local mining and engineering sectors – including our customers and competitors.”

Through a rigorous selection process countrywide that targets unemployed youth under 26 years old, 10 apprentices are enrolled every year at the academy. They spend three years in formalised training towards their qualification and future role as an artisan. FLSmidth employs as many as it can accommodate within its resource planning and budgeting; the company also goes the extra mile in trying to find placements for the others, either among its customers or the broader industry.

“In this way, we develop our own specialised in-house expertise while creating a skills pipeline that supports the local economy and builds a stronger base for the manufacturing, mining and other sectors,” he explains. “This is part of our commitment to the growth of mining and industry in Africa.”

Such training is only possible because of FLSmidth’s depth of skill already at work in its advanced Chloorkop Service Centre on the same site. Here, the company conducts turnkey refurbishment and repair services, supported by infrastructure that includes a large fabrication shop, an assessment and assembly area, and a heavy machining section with both conventional and CNC equipment.

“The rules of supervising and mentoring apprenticeships require that there is at least one artisan for every three apprentices,” explains Parkinson. “We therefore leverage our existing skills base to nurture the artisans of tomorrow – ensuring that each apprentice is closely supervised and well managed to enhance the practical learning process.”

FLSmidth also hosts a two-year Engineering Graduate Internship programme, where it develops graduates in disciplines such as mechanical, chemical and metallurgical engineering. Each intern is supervised by an FLSmidth engineer working in the relevant field.

A further training programme being offered is a unique learnership that FLSmidth conducts in collaboration with the German Chamber of Commerce. The Commercial Apprenticeship Training scheme (CATS) involves a two-year learning programme, earning the successful participant an Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) qualification at Level 5 in South Africa, as well as a German qualification – the Diploma in Industrial Management Assistant.

An information technology (IT) learnership is also offered for 20 local people with disabilities; with its focus on computer-based system development skills, the field is less inhibiting for people with disabilities, he points out. This initiative aligns well with the company’s social responsibility strategy and its sustainability goals.

“The track record of the Training Academy in South Africa has been so successful that we now have valuable experience to share with FLSmidth operations globally,” he says. “Colleagues abroad are able to draw on our model to achieve similar results in their regions. A number of our trainees have, in fact, already been placed in operations abroad, proving the world class quality of our outputs.”

Within the FLSmidth Service Centre itself, the quality of the learners from the Training Academy is already well proven. For example, the current foreman of the machining shop was an apprentice in this facility just 14 years ago. There have also been general workers admitted to the apprenticeship programme, qualifying successfully to become qualified machine operators.

The Training Centre also provides staff and customers with product training, says Parkinson. This generally covers three levels: the first level is general knowledge about products, the second level is basic operations and preventative maintenance, and the third level focuses on specialised maintenance.


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