As the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) celebrates 125 years of existence this year, it will move even further in the direction of uplifting youngsters in the sector.
The institute will continue to support students financially through its long-standing scholarship trust fund, which was established in 2003 to financially assist previously disadvantaged students registered to study mining and metallurgy at tertiary institutions.
SAIMM president Alastair Macfarlane notes that the institute recognises the financial difficulties many students, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, experience in the course of their studies.
This financial stress prevents them from excelling in their studies, Macfarlane says. He indicates that the fund has thus far offered support in excess of R3-million, but this is still not enough.
“We still need to find ways of actively growing that fund. We receive incredibly heart-warming responses from the youngsters that we do support in terms of what a difference it makes to their lives.”
SAIMM, through its junior organisation the Young Professionals Council (YPC) – established in 2016 – is developing and promoting initiatives, such as the mentorship programme, to boost industry awareness among SAIMM members who are below the age of 35 and to provide an alternative perspective for the institute.
“Previously, we had a career guidance committee for young people, but it was not exactly hitting the mark and that is why we took this approach. The YPC has a database of about 300 young professionals, who have graduated but cannot find work. The council helps to facilitate placing them in internships.”
Macfarlane states that the YPC is now very successful and, as co-director of the Mandela Mining Precinct, he notes that the YPC is also a platform to identify prospective interns for the precinct.
“There is currently no direct link between the institute and the precinct, but we are trying to work into a whole new ecosystem. We have direct partners at the precinct, such as the higher education institutions; therefore, SAIMM can help the precinct and vice versa.”
He adds that while the membership profile of the SAIMM has noticeably become younger over the years, membership has also grown in terms of women.
Consequently, such an ever-changing profile requires a review of the institute’s strategies going forward.
“We have been reviewing the institute’s path forward and how it fits into this future that we see unfolding around us. To take the institute further, we need to look at a five- to ten-year plan that focuses on relevancy for the industry and issues related to our current membership.”
Further, the SAIMM works in conjunction with the Mandela Mining Precinct on programmes and conferences that can further the aims of the precinct. The institute is also part of the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance, which it aims to be more proactive in going forward.
Macfarlane states that SAIMM is strengthening its links across Southern Africa to countries such as Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, through its branches.
“The fact that we are still around means that we must have done something right but, we need to move beyond just technical presentations. We are starting to organise events that are somewhat more controversial, where the institute can be a facilitator for dialogue centred on issues that are topical in the industry.”