Occupational technical skills and safety training facility Murray & Roberts Training Academy (MRTA) has invested in a series of additions and upgrades to further ensure that learners are better prepared for the digitalised, mechanised and automated future of mining.
One of the most significant advances made by MRTA – a subsidiary of mining contractor Murray & Roberts Cementation, in Carletonville, Gauteng – is the transition to a paperless learning experience, Murray & Roberts Cementation education, training and development executive Tony Pretorius tells Mining Weekly.
He explains that MRTA’s blended learning approach – which incorporates computer- based e-learning, clicker-based training workshops, instructional videos, virtual reality (VR), simulations and interactive practical training on mock-ups – is enhanced by the new paperless training management system, which provides ample platforms for theoretical, reflexive and practical training to ensure a well-rounded and effective training experience.
“I believe that MRTA’s blended learning approach, coupled with the embrace of Industry 4.0 technology, makes the training experience unique within the South African mining training space,” Pretorius says.
Additionally, the system allows for the seamless creation of detailed digital learner portfolios of evidence – which are then stored in the cloud for retrieval at any stage. These portfolios are updated regularly through the automatic capturing and collating of assessment results, training time logs and all other details regarding the learners’ training histories. Pretorius notes that, previously, such portfolios comprised about 120 printed pages per learner.
The paperless system, in addition to being more environment friendly and cost effective, almost entirely eliminates human error from the administrative process, consequently ensuring more accurate assessments, better learner tracking and increased accountability, notes Pretorius.
“The system includes a moderation tool to check whether learners spent the right amount of time in training and whether their identity was authenticated. It also affords learners the opportunity to evaluate their training experience,” he says.
“If there is ever an accident or lost-time injury in a workplace, the employer and relevant authorities will always check to see how competent the person involved truly is. Therefore, these portfolios are vital to support the industry.”
Pretorius adds that MRTA’s training management system enjoys considerable support from the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), as well as the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, owing to its comprehensiveness, reliability, consistency and accuracy.
The implementation of the system – through information technology service provider MG Systems Consultants – was completed in October last year at an investment value of about R3-million.
Mechanised Engineering Workshop
Another significant upgrade to MRTA’s facilities is the addition of a mechanised mining equipment training centre, where learners can become familiar with the necessary skills and knowledge needed for the operation, maintenance and repair of mechanised mining machinery.
The dedicated workshop was completed in October 2020 at a cost of about R2-million.
“The workshop is fully equipped with all the infrastructure needed to train apprentices, artisans, operators and supervisors on all areas of mechanised engineering,” boasts Pretorius.
The facility can accommodate the teaching of auto-electronics, electro-hydraulics, component replacement, machine rebuilding, machine servicing and machine maintenance for all manner of mechanised underground equipment.
Pretorius says MRTA’s mechanised engineering workshop enables learners to interact with a variety of actual mining machines, as opposed to the VR and simulated experiences encountered earlier in the curriculum.
For the mechanised engineering training, a variety of machines are made available to MRTA by Murray & Roberts Cementation. These machines are owned by the company, but are not currently in use at any of its operations, and might need repair or maintenance, which the learners can then implement.
Neuroscience and Safety Leadership Training
MRTA has also added a neuroscience and safety leadership training course to its offering.
The course teaches learners about various personality types, the strengths and weaknesses of individual personalities and how the brain influences the behaviour of those personalities.
It is aimed at helping learners understand the different needs and approaches inherent in various personality types and how this relates to effective leadership.
Pretorius notes that such training enhances productivity – and safety – in the workplace because effective leadership boosts morale, which, in turn, enhances teamwork efficacy and efficiency.
Despite the advances made to equip learners with technical competence, many lack the leadership to effectively engage with teams in the workplace and, thereby, influence teams to produce better and operate more safely, he adds.
“We have found that many mining supervisors lack emotional intelligence, which has a negative effect on team performance. The neuroscience component of this course is all about introducing the supervisor to how the brain interprets information,” Pretorius explains.
MRTA can accommodate up to 420 learners at a time, with programmes ranging from 20-day courses to two-year learnerships.
Through funding from the MQA, MRTA has also provided a National Qualification Authority Level 2 health, safety and environment learnership for 1150 unemployed learners over the past four years. About 25% of these graduates are absorbed into Murray & Roberts Cementation as employees.