Following capital equipment supplier Barloworld Equipment's investment into its R130-million Technical Training Centre at its Isando operations, local government has expressed a desire to increasingly partner with the private sector in key infrastructure developments and programmes designed to advance the South African economy.
"We support this initiative, and going forward we should find a way of partnering with [Barloworld]. There is a need to focus on the development of scarce skills and this comes at a time when it is needed most," said Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile at an onsite showcase evening in March this year.
"As we face the economic meltdown, the important thing is to invest as much as possible in infrastructure development." He added that projects such as the training centre serve to reinforce and support government's investment of over R600-million in infrastructure development, helping to ensure long-term sustainability and future growth.
"We want to assure that as a company we are prepared for and ready to enter into any kind of partnership relationship with the Gauteng government as a major province in this country in terms of industrial development," said Barloworld chairman Dumisa Ntsebeza at the event. "Any effort that the government is putting into skills development, it must know that Barloworld can be counted on in terms of articulating what needs to be done, as well as in terms of implementing projects such as this one."
The development comes at a time when Barloworld is implementing strong measures to cut costs and has placed several capital projects on hold.
"However, skills development remains a priority and our investment in leadership development and technical skills training is being increased this year," said Barloworld Equipment CEO Peter Bulterman. "We as Barloworld have made one fundamental decision - we will not cut back on training and development."
Work started on the development in the fourth quarter of 2008, and phase 1 is expected to be complete by mid-2009.
At full capacity the training centre will be capable of developing about 2 000 learners a year, including learner artisans, artisans employed by Barloworld Equipment, as well as artisans employed by customers and other Cat dealers. The centre will contain a six-bay workshop, 12 practical work areas, 12 lecture rooms, office accommodation, a canteen and other amenities. Meanwhile, the Barloworld Equipment Operator Academy will have four dedicated lecture rooms.
The Technical Training Centre will facilitate South African learners as well as learners from other African countries such as Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi.
Accommodation has been acquired in close proximity to the Technical Training Centre and is being refurbished for out-of-town learners. This will have full catering facilities and accommodation for 130 students in 96 single rooms, eight bachelor units and eight flexible multi-roomed units.
"This R130-million project, together with the training skills that will populate the centre, is an investment in Barloworld Equipment's future and in the future of our customers and our country," said Bulterman.
Last year Barloworld Equipment opened its purpose-built Leadership Development Centre at its Sandton-based head office. This facility provides comprehensive management training programmes to employees in leadership positions.
"In these difficult economic times, even stronger leadership is needed. We've developed this centre to ensure that from upper managment right down to our supervisory level of management, we give all our employees the training that they need," said Bulterman.
Ntsebeza added that Barloworld Equipment's focus on empowering its people is linked closely with the broad-based black economic-empowerment initiative announced by the group last year. "In terms of this agreement, all our South African employees were given shares in the company. Ongoing development of all skills takes this a step further. South Africa has a technical skills crisis. As a country we will flounder without skills, whatever the economic climate. We are making a commitment as a company to devote whatever funds we can to developing skills."
Caterpillar vice president of marketing for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Paolo Fellin, pointed out that investment in people was entrenched in the culture of both Barloworld and Caterpillar. "We have shared 82 years in business and there are times when we have to regroup and focus as a team on getting stronger. Barloworld Equipment's skills development initiatives will help to ensure our future together in southern Africa."
Bulterman added that, while Barloworld Equipment was expecting industry sales to decline, the company's solutions strategy and wide geographic and market coverage would help to sustain its performance.
"For example, we have strong partnerships in coal and iron ore, two mining sectors that remain strong despite the commodities slump. Barloworld Equipment is a major supplier of earthmoving equipment to infrastructure development in southern Africa, and our Angolan business is showing no signs of slowing from levels of unprecedented growth," he said.
He notes that Caterpillar has almost doubled the Cat machine population on the ground in the past five years, indicating that its equipment management capability, incorporating parts, service and other customised solutions, will continue to generate strong demand.
Milestones in Barloworld Equipment's skills development programmes have included pioneering artisan learnerships and a pre-learnership bridging course in South Africa, as well as establishment of the industry's first government-accredited operator training programme. The company is also seeing results from its efforts to have artisan learnerships accepted at national level in all its southern African dealership territories.
To watch a video clip of the conceptual designs of Barloworld's new Technical Training Centre, go to www.engineeringnews.co.za and click on ‘Multimedia' and then on ‘Video Clips'