Engen Refinery Skills: briefing

Science and Technology

20 February 2007
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Meeting report


20 February 2007

Mr E Ngocobo (ANC)

Document handed out:
Engen Refinery Skills: presentation

The Committee received a briefing from the Engen Refinery regarding skills development and the retention of skilled resources. The presentation highlighted the challenges facing Engen as they attempted to recruit skilled workers to South African projects. Members noted that strategies had to be put in place to keep skilled workers in South Africa as well as facilitate learners finishing secondary school. Members stated that was a disjuncture between the advice given to learners at secondary school and learners entering tertiary education.

Fluor, an American-based company, provided graphical information regarding developments and future prospects in the construction industry. A number of concerns were raised about future prospects. Members heard that more money had to put into development and skills training.


Engen Refinery briefing
Mr Mike Stead, Manager: Clean Fuels Implementation, Cleaner Fuels Phase Two project at Engen, briefed the Committee on the retention of skilled resources. The presentation outlined Future Fuels Projects and the background to Engen that included early expansion projects and the Clean Fuels One Project. A particular emphasis was put on the retention of skilled resources within South Africa. He noted that the loss of skills was a concern in all construction industries. Engineers, planners, surveyors and inspectors were urgently needed to design, construct and run new plants.

He noted that a number of factors were driving skilled workers out of South Africa. These factors included high paying jobs in the Middle East, employment equity and the perceptions of crime. He noted that Engen was busy with a number of new projects and the need to retain skilled workers was paramount. A significant investment by government and the private sector was needed to train students and retain skilled workers.

He noted that efforts were being made to train much needed artisans in South Africa such as the Shutdown Network Forum (SNF). Originally set up between South African petroleum companies, the SNF has expanded to include paper, pulp, steel and energy. The vision of the SNF was to create value by enabling effective large shutdown execution through the sharing of real time information, best practices and resource development. A number of solutions were proposed to deal with training and co-ordination problems. Engen proposed a three-point plan that included effective use of training resources, management of scarce skilled resources and scheduling projects to reduce the skills shortfall.

Mr Thabang Tawarima, Deputy Managing Director at Fluor-Igoda Projects, provided the Committee with a graphic representation of labour demand on capital projects for the 2010 through 2012 period. These graphs were part of a study conducted by Fluor SA to assess the likely future level of activity in certain parts of the Southern African construction industry, review training requirements within the industry and assess whether South African industry has the required skilled labour force to undertake the projects that were planned.

He noted a number of concerns. These included convergence issues such as the 2010 World Cup deadlines, ESKOM’s scaled-up investments and the Clean Fuels Programme Phase Two. The main concerns around resources were that skilled people were emigrating, the current number of artisans being trained is significantly lower than before, that there were not enough engineering graduates and the impact of the HIV/Aids pandemic on human resources.     

Prof I Mohamed (ANC) noted that the loss of skilled workers in South Africa was a serious problem. He stated that the loss was due to the State’s decision to shut down the nuclear industry. South Africa was now in desperate need of recovering skilled workers.

Members from Engen responded that Fluor was an American-based engineering and construction company that was supporting South Africa with its construction projects.

The Chairperson noted that experienced artisans made conditions unfavourable for inexperienced artisans. He noted that inexperienced artisans were not assigned to projects to develop their skills. He asked how Engen would address these problems.

Mr Tawarima responded that the construction industry was tough for inexperienced workers. There was a transformation process in the industry and they were aware of problems faced by young engineers entering the industry. There was however a limit to the number of learners that could be enrolled.

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) noted that the perception of crime was over-exaggerated. He asked if the Further Education and Training (FET) colleges were experiencing problems and whether they were producing adequate graduates. He noted that the recruitment strategies of big companies were mainly focussed on the big cities and not in the less-populated provinces. A concerted effort had to be made to redirect graduates that were jobless to jobs.

Mr Tawarima responded that the Middle East construction companies paid a significantly higher salary and that is why many skilled workers had left. The perception of crime is a big issue and they were glad to see workers returning to South Africa from abroad. The racial profile of workers leaving had changed because black middle class workers were also leaving.

Mr Stead noted that FET colleges were conducting artisan training. The colleges were used to their full capacity but more resources were needed to recruit rural students.

Mr B Mnyandu (ANC) noted that there was a disjuncture in the education system as it did not prepared students for tertiary education. He asked whether any comparative studies had been done in other countries regarding skills loss.

Mr Stead noted that other academic disciplines could be converted into engineering qualifications. He had concerns about co-ordination and felt that a strategic plan had to be developed. He did not know of any comparative studies. In addition, tertiary institutions were encouraging students to get degrees and were therefore neglecting artisan training. There was a serious disjuncture between schools and universities.

Mr E Mtshali (ANC) asked what the challenges were for the 2010 World Cup and construction of the Gautrain.

Mr Tawarima noted that the major challenge for Engen in preparation for the 2010 World Cup and the Gautrain was to roll out the Clean Fuels Phase Two.

Members from Engen noted that the current situation should be seen in an opportunity perspective. They noted that prestige should be brought to artisinal job opportunities; however certain factors had to be put into place first.
The meeting was adjourned.  


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