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Mining partnerships improve STEM skills

Image of TechnoGirl Trust CEO Staff Sithole

STAFF SITHOLE Mining partnerships offer young women the chance to gain hands-on experience in the field, learn about industry trends and advancements, and connect with potential employers

12th May 2023

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer

     

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Skills building programme TechnoGirl Trust is partnering with local mining companies to provide mentorship and other opportunities for young women interested in pursuing careers in the arenas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The state of STEM education opportunities for young women has been improving in recent years, but there is still a significant gender gap in participation and representation in STEM fields, including mining. According to a 2021 report by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, only 35% of STEM graduates in South Africa are women,” states TechnoGirl Trust CEO Staff Sithole.

She expects that initiatives and programmes, such as TechnoGirl, will continue to grow and provide more opportunities for young women to pursue STEM education and mining careers.

These programmes will also contribute to the employment of a more diverse and inclusive workforce, Sithole adds.

TechnoGirl Trust would like to focus on two key areas in the mining sector.

Firstly, the partnerships with mining roleplayers, which will include programmes focused on digital skills training, including coding and robotics.

Secondly, TechnoGirl will provide support for young women to pursue STEM education pathways that lead to mining careers. These pathways are made possible through job shadowing, mentorship, career guidance and exposure to industry professionals.

While TechnoGirl does not specifically focus on mining-related career opportunities, the programme has had several partnerships with several mining companies such as engineering consultancy GIBB.

Previous partners include diversified miner Anglo American, services provider Modi Mining, multi-disciplinary company Aveng Grinaker - LTA Mining, gold miner DRDGOLD, diamond miner Petra Diamond’s Finsch diamond mine and ferrochrome supplier Hernic Ferrochrome.

These companies provide learners with exposure to different industries and career paths.

Women currently occupy only 21% of positions in the local mining industry, according to a report by research company McKinsey & Company.

Therefore, these partnerships, which enable learners to gain practical experience, knowledge in various fields and exposure to industry professionals, can potentially inspire young women to pursue mining careers and improve the industry’s gender diversity.

“TechnoGirl Trust emphasises the importance of providing diverse educational and training opportunities for its learners to help them explore various career paths and develop the skills needed to succeed in their chosen fields,” adds Sithole.

She also stresses the importance of young women being exposed to working experience in the private sector, especially as the majority of mining entities in South Africa are part of the private sector.

“The mining partnerships offer young women the chance to gain hands-on experience in the field, learn about industry trends and advancements, and connect with potential employers.”

Sithole points out that local mining can help foster more employment opportunities in a variety of ways.

In addition to its existing partnerships, bursaries and apprenticeship programmes, the local industry can create a more inclusive and welcoming environment, promote diversity and inclusion, and develop targeted recruitment programmes.

The increased participation of mining companies in the TechnoGirl Trust programme has the potential to contribute significantly to the programme's primary focus of promoting STEM careers for young girls.

Through job shadowing opportunities provided by mining companies, the learners will be exposed to real-world applications of STEM skills, including engineering, geology and environmental science.

The TechnoGirl Trust is hoping to expose about 5 000 learners in grades 8 to 11 to the mining sector, and other STEM-related fields, through the TechnoGirl job shadowing programme, which is designed to provide a meaningful and immersive learning experience.

The trust is also looking to provide comprehensive digital skills training, including coding and robotics, to 1 000 unemployed youth.

This training will cover basic digital literacy skills, including how to use computer software, Internet navigation and online communication tools, in addition to equipping participants with the technical skills required for mining and engineering sectors.

“By achieving this short-term goal, we can help address the skills gap in these sectors while simultaneously providing unemployed youth with the necessary skills to secure employment in a rapidly evolving job market. This training will not only increase their employability but also enable them to contribute to the growth and sustainability of these industries,” she concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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