FIRST Quantum Minerals (FQM) has set aside more than K40 billion in a drive to produce more Zambian engineers and artisans to meet the skills gap in an increasingly demanding mining industry and expanding economy, the company announced yesterday.
The development came to light when FQM Minerals announced a K500 million bursary scheme exclusively for Zambians to study engineering.
“All eligible Zambians must take advantage of this bursary scheme in engineering studies. FQM resident director Kwaleyela Lamaswala said in a statement made exclusively available to the Daily Mail.
He explained that the bursary was only open to Zambians, which underscores the company’s desire to see that significant benefits from the mineral wealth of the nation flow to the Zambian citizens in a sustained manner.
“The bursary augments First Quantum’s existing training and development programme that will see more than 200 Zambians study in local and foreign higher learning institutions in diverse fields that include engineering and medicine and artisan skills by 2013,” Mr Lamaswala said.
The move by Zambia’s largest copper producer and tax payer also holds further potential to drive innovation and job creation in a country where unemployment hovers above 60 percent.
Earlier in the year, the Lusaka, London and Toronto-listed mining company had injected an initial K9 billion into a multi-billion Kwacha apprenticeship programme that will see more than 180 students trained in various artisan disciplines.
Applicants for the bursary scheme must have completed their A levels. Those completing their A levels this year also qualify to apply.
Successful applicants will pursue studies in mine engineering, geology, metallurgy, chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering in South African universities.
The cost per student to study in a South African university is estimated at K70 million per year to cover tuition, accommodation, upkeep, travel and visa costs.
“With Zambia’s economy growing at an annual rate of more than 5 percent in the last half a decade, the need for engineering and artisans can never be over-emphasised. Therefore, this is one vivid example of how First Quantum ensures that maximum opportunities and benefits accrue to Zambians,” Mr Kwaleyela stressed.
The graduates are expected to undergo a graduate development programme before being integrated within FQM and groomed to occupy supervisory and management positions.
FQM’s existing training and development programme for graduates will soon produce the first crop of junior and middle managers. These are on mentorship programmes aimed at arming them with managerial skills.
In 2011 First Quantum also launched a local multi-billion artisan training programme in electrical, welding, mechanical and other related disciplines as a way of bridging the gap between the increasing demand for technical skills and the low output from technical institutions.
Dubbed Kwambula (Kaonde for ignite), the programme run in conjunction with the Ministry of Science, Technical and Vocational Training at Solwezi Technical Training Institute started in January 2012 with 36 learners.
The estimated cost of seeing the current batch of learners to the end of the course is K9 billion.
The apprenticeship is expected to expand, and is projected that 180 students will be enrolled on it by 2013.
Graduates from the apprenticeship programme will be absorbed by the mining industry and other diversified industries, especially in North-Western Province that has emerged as the new Copperbelt.