February 11th is International Day of Women and Girls in Science – a day that celebrates women and girls who are involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and encourages others to pursue studies and careers in these fields. It helps promote the wide range of amazing career opportunities on offer. It is also a reminder that women and girls play a valuable role in science and technology and that their participation should be strengthened.

Anglo American is one of the companies that supports the drive to encourage girls and women to take STEM subjects and choose careers using science and technology.

Supporting women and girls in science and technology2

Anglo American encourages the involvement of girls and women in science and technology through a number of different programmes.

Speaking on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Bongi Ntsoelengoe, Technology Manager at Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore, said STEM skills are the foundation on which our country's development and future prosperity will be built. “They are the skills that will not only take the mining sector forward, but also create a groundswell of new engineering talent which is essential to liberate our country from underdevelopment. It is important that we do everything within our power to instil a passion for the STEM fields in our young people.”

Ntsoelengoe encourages those already working in related fields to find ways of showing learners, especially young women, the real power of STEM to build a better future. “Take them on site visits, invite them for job shadowing, encourage internships, get involved in problem-solving platforms such as hackathons, expose and encourage development of digital skills – do whatever it takes to engage and prepare young people to adapt to the 4th industrial revolution that we find ourselves in. The future of our country will be built on the work of these young engineers, technologists, and technicians.”

Anglo American is committed to growing and developing STEM skills in South Africa and supports a number of programmes in this regard.

  • Science Centre at Parktown High School for Girls, Johannesburg. In late 2015, Anglo American made a multi-million rand investment in the Science Centre at Parktown High School for Girls. This enabled the construction of two laboratory and classroom facilities for life sciences, physics and chemistry. The facilities were opened in late 2016 to the school’s 1 100 pupils. The effect was almost immediate: 30 % more Grade 9 girls chose the sciences as matric subjects. The centre is already impacting positively on overcoming the skills gap in STEM subjects. 

  • The Anglo American Science, Career Guidance and Information Communication Technology (ICT) Resource Centre in eMalahleni. Since opening in 2010 this centre has engaged, entertained and inspired no less than 34 000 young people. The R19-million facility – launched in partnership with the Mpumalanga Department of Education, the National Department of Basic Education and the Eskom, MTN and Vodacom Foundations – provides young people with essential information on subject and job requirements in the world of work. It also nurtures a passion for the sciences and ICT and provides access to a range of computer courses through which they can gain fully accredited qualifications and, in turn, employment.

  • Kumba Iron Ore’s Virtual Reality Centre, University of Pretoria. This is the first Virtual Reality (VR) Centre for Mine Design on the African continent and has changed the way in which mining engineering students are taught. Kumba worked with the university to enhance the students’ learning experience by creating the VR centre. It was opened in August 2015 and includes a state of the art 75-seater lecture hall with a 3D stereoscopic theatre, as well as a ‘cylinder’ room enclosed by a 360-degree 3D screen, which offers an innovative approach to optimising and visualising information.

  • Kumba’s bridging school. Kumba runs a 12-month bursary programme where learners from the communities around its mines are awarded the opportunity to improve their maths and science matric marks so that they can gain admission to tertiary education institutions. In 2018 Kumba placed 19 students from previously disadvantaged areas around its mining communities at Edumap College. Of the 19 learners, 11 were girls. All the students showed an improvement of between 10 % and 20 % in their maths and science results. The school also hosts courses in engineering drawing, entrepreneurship and computers.

  • Bursary programme. Kumba also runs a bursary programme to support students in tertiary education in engineering and geosciences. This secures a pipeline of talent and skills for the company’s graduate programme and it provides students the opportunity to obtain the technical qualifications they need to enter the market place.

  • In terms of participation of women and girls, Kumba has exceeded its 30% target with more than half (55%) of bursary holders being girls and most of the bursary pool (48%) being African girls and women.

  • Professionals in training. For students that have completed their bursary programme studies, Kumba runs a programme for ‘professionals in training’ (PITs). This enables the students to obtain work experience to ready them for the job market. A good example is the mining programme in which Kumba provides its mining graduates with further training and access to obtain underground experience at other mines, even though Kumba operates an opencast mine. The company encourages professionals in training to obtain the best experience and to register for professional registrations and formal qualifications. Kumba also hosts an annual PIT Symposium where PITs are given the opportunity to showcase their projects to stakeholders. In 2018 two of the three winners were women, one with a project on cycle mining, focusing on improving production in underground mining, and the other with a project on structural inspections using innovative RPAS technology (drones).

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Leigh Darroll
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