ATLAS Copco has launched an extensive in-house recruitment and training program in the face of increasing labour shortages in the mining industry.
The company is planning to double its apprentice intake in 2008.
“The company is in the process of formulating a new career progression structure and training program for all our people, and we’ve launched an aggressive recruitment drive around the country,” Atlas Copco Construction and Mining Equipment national service manager Nick Phillips said.
“We have a mix of long term and short term strategies to maintain the growth of our service division, but more importantly to up-skill and develop the people in this part of the business,” he said.
“There is an acute awareness that aftermarket will be the key business driver when the investment cycle turns.”
Phillips is a former national underground maintenance manager for Henry Walker Eltin, and has also worked for more than 14 years in the mining equipment supply sector.
He believes the industry is in the midst of more serious recruitment and training challenges than those reported to date.
Skilled technical and maintenance staff, in particular, are harder to come by than ever, according to Phillips.
“Measures adopted by the mining industry to quickly expand the skills base, including a steep rise in people imports and rampant staff poaching, come with sustainability question marks,” Phillips said.
The industry must be innovative and take a longer term view.
“The company is looking at up to a seven year arrangement with apprentices that will not only give them an apprenticeship, but also a career path beyond that,” Phillips said.
“We’re putting forward a four-year apprenticeship, then up to three years of working for Atlas Copco in Sweden, or continuing career development and product training elsewhere around the world.”
Apprentices will then have the option of returning as specialists.
“We believe it will improve our retention rate for apprentices, but even if we are supplying more skilled Atlas Copco personnel into the industry, we are exporting the culture and a degree of product loyalty into the marketplace,” Phillip said.
“Everyone is looking to bring tradesmen in from overseas, but there aren’t too many success stories around the country,” he said.
Atlas Copco jobs advertisements recently released for apprenticeship training immediately received 68 replies.
The program concept drew from Phillip’s previous industry experiences and discussions he’d had with product specialists and personnel.
“People who’ve gone to work with Atlas Copco’s manufacturing and marketing companies in Sweden have absolutely loved it, they have come back with lots of knowledge and experience, ready to go forward,” he said.
National Service Manager