Over the years, the Engineering Training Centre at the Obuasi mine has grown from being a very basic facility to a significant skills development centre in Ghana. The development programmes offered by the centre prepare students for the competitive and technological challenges of an industry that is becoming increasingly mechanised.
The centre, established in 1988, was open only to Obuasi mine employees prior to 1997. With the expansion of the Ashanti group, however, trainees were accepted at the Engineering Training Centre from the Ayanfuri, Bibiani and Iduapriem mines in Ghana, as well as the Siguiri mine in Guinea. And since 1997, this has been expanded to include the training of personnel from various other mining-related companies.
The 20 personnel at the centre, who represent various engineering disciplines, are all permanent employees of Obuasi, and have been drawn primarily from the engineering maintenance department at Obuasi. They therefore bring practical experience to bear on the training programmes conducted. The facilities provided include 16 lecture rooms and workshops which are fully equipped with the appropriate training and audio-visual aids.
In 2001 the centre's Apprenticeship Training Programme was redesigned to focus on the training of polytechnic graduates so as to equip them with the requisite practical experience required for employment in the mining sector. This programme is different in that it takes into account that polytechnic graduates already have some technical knowledge.
The programme is advertised annually. Polytechnic graduates who are interested apply and undergo a selection process that includes an entry examination and interviews.
Successful applicants are admitted as trainees and, on completion of the training programme, those who are needed are employed. The remainder are released into the labour market, but their particulars are retained on file as first choice contacts in future recruitment exercises.
To date, two groups of apprentice trainees - totalling 59 individuals - have successfully completed the programme in six disciplines, namely electrical engineering, instrumentation, welding and fabrication, auto mechanics, diesel mechanics and plant mechanics. About 80% of these have been absorbed as core junior staff employees at AngloGold Ashanti operations. Of the 260 applicants in 2004, 45 were successful (35 from Obuasi and 10 from Siguiri). About 40 entrants are anticipated for the 2005 year.
The cost to the company is currently, on average, $6,900 for each trainee over the two-year training period. This amount includes personal protective equipment (PPE), monthly allowances and the provision of medical care.
Thomas Brentum from Enchi in Ghana, and his colleagues, rebuilt a heavy-duty engine at the Obuasi Mine engine rebuilding workshop, after completing the Apprenticeship Training Programme in July 2004. According to Brentum, the training received at the Engineering Training Centre has given him the right practical exposure and increased his knowledge as well as his appreciation of the motor mechanic trade. Today he is able to support himself and he sponsors his nephew who is pursuing a six-month computer literacy programme at NIIT in Accra, Ghana's leading
information, technology, education and training institute.