The IQSA Conference, a staple on the local quarrying sector’s calendar, returns this year after a two-year COVID-19 influenced disruption. Held under the ‘IQSA Reconnect’ theme, this year’s event will tackle a range of critical issues affecting the industry – from legislation to technology and training, among other matters of importance. By Munesu Shoko.
The Institute of Quarrying Southern Africa (IQSA) Conference returns this year following the cancelation of the event in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s event will be held at the Kopanong Hotel & Conference Centre in Benoni, Gauteng, on March 16 – 17, confirms IQSA president Jeremy Hunter-Smith, who began his two-year tenure on June 1, 2021.
The 2022 conference is held under the ‘IQSA Reconnect’ theme and is truly a platform for reconnection after the industry last congregated in 2019. “This year’s conference has been branded ‘IQSA Reconnect’ for obvious reasons; the past two years have really pulled associations apart, limiting members’ ability to network and connect with exhibitors. We believe 2022 is the year for reconnection,” says Hunter-Smith.
Delegates can look forward to a full two days’ programme filled with great papers. While the keynote speaker is always a drawcard, an economist will also shed some light on what is happening and what to expect during the year. Other key papers, adds Hunter-Smith, will touch on the Mining Charter, digitalisation of quarry operations and issues affecting small-scale mining, among others.
Attracting young skills
One of the key issues of discussion at the conference will be the ageing workforce and the industry’s urgent need to attract skilled young people. Hunter-Smith acknowledges that the issue of an ageing workforce is a matter of concern across industries, and quarrying is no different.
“Not much has changed over the past few years, but we are constantly looking for ways to attract young professionals to our industry. It is an illustrious career path with several opportunities, given the diverse nature of skills required in our industry,” says Hunter-Smith. “It is, however, encouraging to see many great young people coming through the pipeline. With the right mentors, they will be able to develop and take the industry to the next level.”
To attract young people into the quarrying industry, the Institute of Quarrying Southern Africa has for the past six years run a Young Members Network, aimed at creating awareness of the global network between the Institute of Quarrying member countries.
Two student papers at this year’s conference will give young professionals a chance to present a case study to the industry, with the winner set to get a prize. The winner of the 2017 student paper had the privilege of joining the Australian Young Members’ international tour to New Zealand in June 2018. “Our goal is to continue offering these incentives for our young professionals to gain international experience and be part of the global IQ network,” says Hunter-Smith.
Skills development is another area of critical significance, stresses Hunter-Smith, thus both IQUK and IQSA will use this year’s conference to launch the IQ Academy Select for online courses. “This programme is our way of championing skills development for our members,” he says. “The programme will allow young professionals to gain CDP points along their journey to their required professional field.”
Hunter-Smith acknowledges that the current brain drain is a major challenge, not only for the quarrying industry, but across the economy at large. This is particularly hostile to business growth. He, however, believes that this can also create wonderful opportunity for individuals to “grab the stick and run with it”. With the right attitude and willingness to learn, Hunter-Smith believes that young professionals can drive the industry forward.
Commenting on the industry outlook, Hunter-Smith says there is a notable rebound, and the aggregates market is bouncing back from the low levels experienced during the hard-lockdown period.
“For a growing economy such as South Africa, aggregates and building materials are essential. We have an economist scheduled to paint the picture for us at the conference, but I am positive that the market is turning, which is positive for an industry that has endured such a lengthy downturn due to COVID-19. On a personal level, I am looking forward to the next year and a half; the aim is to make a difference to our members and add value to the industry at large in my capacity as president of IQSA,” concludes Hunter-Smith.
The story first appeared in the January/February issue of Quarrying Africa.