AEL Mining Services has partnered with higher education institutions like the University of Pretoria, University of Johannesburg and University of the Witwatersrand to host student days to give third and fourth year engineering students a more practical insight into the mining industry.
AEL, part of the JSE-listed AECI group, is a developer, producer and supplier of commercial explosives, initiating systems and blasting services for mining, quarrying and construction markets in South Africa, Africa and worldwide.
On 24 October, the company hosted a group of 60 students from the University of Pretoria at its Skills Development centre in Modderfontein, outside Johannesburg. The company usually hosts four student days in the year, with up to 100 students attending during the days.
“With a sufficient portfolio of qualified engineers working at AEL, a student day with an itinerary designed to introduce students to this sector will serve as an annual training and development programme offered to university engineering students,” says AEL group consulting mining engineer Simon Tose.
Tose adds that students are exposed to sponsorship, training and accredited courses that future graduates can apply for in order to enhance their skills and gain valuable working experience.
The students were dived into groups and taken to various ‘stations’, where they were given more information on areas such as explosives, rock blasting and other mining engineering related issues. They were also taken to the company’s museum to learn more about its history, as well as to an actual blasting demonstration in the afternoon.
“We want to really encourage students who are currently doing engineering to remain as engineers and not change careers. We also want advertise ourselves as a company to them, to show them what we do and attract them,” says Thabo Nkoane, AEL’s head of human capital.
Bringing students to such an event provided them with the opportunity to get a practical demonstration on what is being taught in the classroom, explains Wolter de Graaf, senior lecturer at University of Pretoria’s Department of Mining Engineering.
He says this is especially vital since demonstrations with products like explosives are impossible in a classroom environment. “It’s often through photographs, sketches and videos that they [are taught], and they often find it difficult to relate the theory side to the practical side. Now we can give them the practical exposure – this to us is very valuable in that the students can match the theoretical and practical sides.”
He adds that the event gave students a better understanding of how the industry works, and the importance of explosives engineering in the mining industry. With a lot of students having no work experience – some spend a few weeks working on a mine site – they now get to see what an explosives company does.
“They also get to see the work that goes into making the products much safer, and also the R&D (research and development) that goes into developing products – it’s not just that somebody thought of a fancy gadget – there’s enormous amounts of work that goes into a product or service that is given to the mining industry, and to make it a safer industry for us all.”
De Graaf says there is very positive feedback from the students, as such events give them a clearer idea of concepts that are discussed in the classroom. He adds that even graduates who have since moved on to working with various mining companies have fond memories of their student day visit to AEL.
Tose says that apart from providing a platform of practical demonstrations parallel to their studies, the student day also enables future graduates a better chance applying for engineering graduate programmes in the sector.
He adds that a high volume of applicants is expected this because of the appeal of the bursary programmes and encourages more companies in the industry to get involved in these initiatives. “The programme entails the students studying towards their Diploma and B.Tech at the University of Johannesburg. Once they have passed they will be offered an incentive of working at AEL for two consecutive years.
“The annual student day, will be a day to experience the revolutionary innovations in blasting technology through various activities such as guided tours, product shows and lectures. The aim of this tour is for the students to comprehend the history of explosives, moving away from dynamite and how the past 30 years has had rapid advancement in design technology.”