Thanks to Murray & Roberts Cementation’s training initiatives at the Venetia Underground Project (VUP) near Musina in Limpopo Province, two community members – Lucky Ndou and Nakedi Montja – have been able to realise their dreams of becoming diesel mechanics, a qualification in high demand in South Africa.
Since the inception of the project, which will see De Beers’ Venetia mine transitioning to an entirely underground operation, Murray & Roberts Cementation, responsible for the sinking, equipping and commissioning of two underground shafts and a decline shaft at the VUP site, has trained many employees drawn from the local community in a variety of mining and engineering skills through its learnership programme.
“We’re delighted with the success of the programme, which has seen many employees – all recruited locally – upscaling their skills to higher levels,” says Japie du Plessis, project executive, Murray & Roberts Cementation. “Our approach is to employ local people for entry-level positions and then, if they have the potential, further develop their skills to allow them to qualify for much more senior roles such as trackless mobile machine operators, diesel mechanics, electricians, riggers and miners as well as shift supervisors.”
He says that many learners have, during their skills development journey, spent time at Murray & Roberts Cementation’s world class training academy at its Bentley Park facility near Carletonville on the West Rand.
Lucky Ndou joined Murray & Roberts Cementation in 2013 as a general worker stores but got the opportunity in 2019 to become one of the company’s apprentice learners. This marked the start of three years of training to become a qualified diesel mechanic. He says that his love for fixing machines, apparent at an early age, motivated his decision to upgrade his skills. As he says, “I want to express my technical mind through my hands.”
According to Ndou, his training was challenging at first but became easier as he progressed and the subject material became more interesting. His advice to those considering a similar journey is simple: “Nothing is impossible if you work hard and commit yourself to achieving your goal and making your dreams come true.”
Nakedi Montja joined Murray & Roberts Cementation somewhat later than Ndou, starting his employment as a general worker on the decline in 2019. As a child, he was always around people who fixed cars. “I developed similar interests and fell in love with fixing engines,” he recalls. “This is why I’ve chosen to qualify as a diesel mechanic.”
Describing the highlights of his three-year apprenticeship, he says he now has a thorough understanding of mining machines such as LHDs and drill rigs and can strip and assemble them. His knowledge is not just confined to the electric systems but extends to the mechanical and hydraulic systems as well.
He recommends a career as diesel mechanic to anyone who is ardent about machines and loves working with their hands.
Du Plessis says Murray & Roberts Cementation is proud of the achievements of Ndou and Montja. “As a company, we are committed to uplifting communities and one of the ways we do this is by providing community members with skills that will last a lifetime. We’ve been working on the VUP for roughly ten years and it has been very rewarding to see how our training initiatives have transformed the lives of so many employees.”