More than 180 employees of State-owned rail transport agency Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) on Thursday with a variety of degrees and qualifications in railway operations management.
GCU principal and vice-chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies led the fourth graduation ceremony, which took place at TFR’s School of Rail campus in Esselenpark, Johannesburg, with a leadership speech from Transnet group CEO Siyabonga Gama.
More than 530 TFR employees have now successfully completed the programme since its establishment in 2013. The programme is designed to enable Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy for 2021 and has been extended through a new contract to continue until 2021.
TFR, which specialises in the transportation of freight, is making its undergraduate BSc degree in Railway Operations Management and the new Masters degree programme a core feature of its talent-management programme to achieve the company’s seven-year growth strategy. The company aims to expand and modernise the country’s rail, port and pipeline infrastructure to promote economic growth in South Africa. Almost 1 400 employees at middle, senior and management levels will enroll from 2017 to 2021.
According to Gama, the new knowledge and skills attained during the programme speak directly to the company’s road-to-rail strategy, which seeks to increase rail freight and reduce trucks on South Africa’s roads. “The men and women that we are celebrating today remain key players for Transnet to achieve this goal,” noted Gama at the ceremony.
For four years, GCU’s School for Work Based Education has worked in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to deliver this bespoke programme to TFR. The collaboration originated in a UK partnership with the Institution of Railway Operators. The sister programme in the UK is delivered to train operating companies and freight operating companies across the UK rail sector.
Congratulating the latest cohort of graduates, Gillies expressed her pride that the partnership between CGU, TFR, UJ and the Institution of Railway Operators continues to develop, as the institutions co-create courses to enhance the life chances of Transnet employees, enabling the business to be as efficient and productive as it can be. “This activity is an important part of our enduring commitment, as the University for the Common Good, to provide educational opportunity to working people in Africa,” she said.
Meanwhile, GCU signed a new five-year strategic partnership in September to expand its portfolio of sector-specific railway operations management programmes, in partnership with UJ.
The portfolio of flexible, work-based qualifications evolved from GCU’s successful 11-year partnership in the UK with the Institution of Railway Operators.
TFR is Transnet’s largest division with 30 000 employees and maintains around 80% of Africa’s total rail network. Transnet is investing around R7-billion in skills development and training as it develops its infrastructure.