Terbrugge notes that, while there are a fair amount of juniors exiting tertiary institutions, severe shortages of middle-management expertise exist.
He says that, despite this critical shortage, clients still expect their deadlines to be met on time, or even earlier, and this places a huge burden on the already stretched industry.
“Some 15 years ago, there was a significant flow of graduates from Australia, the US and the UK into South Africa, but now the situation has been reversed.” The skills shortages in the US could, in part, be attributed to the fact that there is no real scope for new mining initiatives.
In the UK, meanwhile, many mining and geological institutions have either closed down or amalgamated, while Australia is not generating enough mining engineers for its own rising demand.
As a result of the shortages of skilled engineers in these countries, many South African experts have emigrated, leaving a significant skills gap in the local market.
Terbrugge adds that with the down- turn in the commodities market a few years ago, mining engineers were battling to find employment and, as a result, few people entered the profession.
Challenging logistics and communication difficulties often experienced by consulting engineers when stationed in remote areas where the living conditions are harsh, further contributes to the profession’s perceived unattractive appeal.
Many mining companies no longer provide suitable positions for graduates.
SRK has, therfore, suggested an exchange programme whereby students could be placed into their systems and vice versa.
Even though such a scheme would open doors for all the relevant parties, the suggestion has been met with some reluctance.
Terbrugge says SRK views the continuous upliftment of its workers as essential and says that previously-disadvantaged people are especially nurtured and trained through on- site experience.
Another concern on the mining front is that research conducted by the institutions would not appear to be at the level it was 15 years ago. With funds being channelled towards other sectors, Australia and Canada seem to have surpassed South Africa as the mining-research leader.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Having made extensive inroads into Africa, an office was officially opened in Tanzania, on April 1.