Learning and development

AECI’s Learning and Development strategies are aligned with the Employment Equity Act, No. 55 of 1998, and the Skills Development Act, No. 97 of 1998, among others.

Building skills and behaviours which promote a culture of continual learning, leadership, inclusivity and transformation is imperative for the Group’s achievement of its strategic goals, including its EE targets.

In 2015, the objective of enabling employees to grow and advance their careers in the Group remained a priority. Opportunities were pursued for employees to participate in training programmes and learning interventions appropriate to their levels of work, and also to attend interventions at higher levels as appropriate.

Training programmes are designed to guarantee the timely availability of the Group’s human capital requirements and learning interventions aim to deliver well-rounded, competent employees who make valuable contributions through their personal growth and increased productivity. Ultimately, their contributions benefit not only themselves but also other stakeholders such as the communities in which they live and AECI’s shareholders.

Employees are encouraged to assume responsibility for their own development in partnership with their Managers. They are guided in assessing their level of competence before applying to participate in opportunities such as the AECI Management Development Ladder and the Employee Study Assistance Programme. The Learning Management System acquired in 2015 is a self-help application and registration service for training courses and e-learning modules, in line with AECI’s value of being ENGAGED. This benefits the employees directly affected and the Group as a whole.

In the year under review R2,3 million (20% more than in 2014) was invested in 124 employees through the Employee Study Assistance Programme. 90% of these employees were from designated groups and their chosen studies covered qualifications that included MBA, BSc and BCom Degrees as well as Diplomas and shorter courses in relevant disciplines. Although the focus remains on addressing scarce and critical skills, the Group will continue assisting employees wishing to improve their educational qualifications in their preferred fields, provided these are in line with their roles.

Skills development is a priority in the Amended Codes and achievement of the 40% threshold is paramount. Some expenditure previously included in SED is now part of the skills development element of the Amended Codes Accordingly, the Group’s investment in the bursary schemes described below will be aggregated in the latter element in future years.

AECI sponsored 20 full-time students, at a cost of approximately R1,1 million, through the AECI External Bursary Scheme. Students were primarily from designated groups and studying towards qualifications identified as being critical or skills considered scarce. Fields of study included agriculture, and chemical and mining engineering. Graduates of the Scheme are employed in the Group for a minimum of 12 months, to gain experience, and some are placed in permanent positions.

Further financial support was provided through the AECI Employee Dependent Bursary Scheme to dependents of employees in lower income brackets. Support here is in the form of bursaries for study at registered tertiary education institutions, irrespective of the course. The number of bursary holders increased to 24 from 18 in the prior year.

A summary of these investments is presented in the table below.

  NO. OF
IN 2015
Employee Study Assistance Programme   124   90   45   R2,3 million
External Bursary Scheme   20   95   70   R1,1 million
Employee Dependent Bursary Scheme   24   100   58   R624 000
Total               R4,02 million

The number of applications for funding from Group employees outside South Africa increased again as the Human Capital function became more inclusive of international operations. This trend is expected to continue. Among the applications approved, based on qualifying criteria, was one from an employee based in Egypt to study towards an MBA Degree.

At individual business level, AEL’s accreditation for the Skills Programme: Blasting Assistant in Surface Mines and Quarries, by the Mining Qualifications Authority, gives the company a competitive edge. The course is also available to customers as part of AEL’s business offering and delegates receive a certificate of competence for attending a registered and accredited skills programme. Employees from AEL in Botswana, the DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Chile and Indonesia joined their South African colleagues on this course during 2015.

Group businesses in South Africa submitted their Annual Workplace Skills Plans and Training Reports to the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (“CHIETA”), as required by legislation.

Changes in the skills development landscape, and Sector Education Training Authorities (“SETAs”) in particular, are expected. A White Paper, “National Skills Development Strategy and SETAs beyond 2016 within the context of an Integrated, Differentiated Post School Education and Training System”, was published in July 2015. Thorough and extensive consultation is necessary as some proposals are complex, including the proposal that Discretionary Grant (“DG”) funds be allocated to the National Skills Fund. It is further proposed that SETAs be restructured to become Sector Education and Training Advisory Boards (“SETABs”). Most of the proposals will require legislative changes. AECI is represented on the CHIETA Board by the Chairman of the National Speciality Chemicals Employers’ Association.

The Group’s Mandatory Grant from the CHIETA totalled R4,2 million in 2015. The CHIETA also approved DG funding of R9,1 million towards Professional, Institutional, Vocational, Occupational, Technical and Academic Learning Programmes. This was a 21% increase from 2014.

Collaboration with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (“TVET”) colleges commenced as planned, in line with best practice requirements. ImproChem played a significant role in the establishment of a committee that brings together industry leaders from South Durban, the Department of Higher Education and Training, the CHIETA and the Coastal KwaZulu-Natal (“KZN”) TVET College. This initiative will give school leavers an opportunity to study towards a nationally recognised Chemical Operations qualification, over a three-year period. ImproChem and other AECI companies at the Umbogintwini Industrial Complex hosted the students on a site visit, whereafter the initiative was announced to the media and other stakeholders during a gala opening. AECI will support the Coastal KZN TVET through the provision of equipment for a simulator plant at the Umbumbulu Campus in KwaMakhutha.

Further collaboration with tertiary educational institutions included AECI’s sponsorship of a simulator plant at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. This plant was officially opened by Khosi Matshitse, AECI’s Executive: Human Capital, during a ceremony held at the InnoVenton Summerstrand Campus.

The Group remained well represented in legislative forums within CHIETA structures. Subject matter experts represented the Group at employer organisations such as the National Speciality Chemicals Employers’ Association, the National Institute of Explosives Technology and the National Artisan Training Committee. These relationships optimise the Group’s ability to make contributions suitable and beneficial to the sectors in which it operates.



AEL’s Learning and Development initiatives are tailored to meet individual employees’ development needs while at the same time building management and leadership skills.  These initiatives provide a blueprint for developing a talent pipeline of individuals who can deliver organisational goals, objectives and targets.

In line with AEL’s aspirations in this regard, 2 916 delegates were trained across all business units. This included interventions focused on Customer Support, Mobile Manufacturing Units, Mobile Charging Units and Detonators Training courses. 99 UNISA students attended the Blasting Competency Programme presented by AEL’s Mining Optimisation employees.

AEL’s accreditation for the Skills Programme: Blasting Assistant in Surface Mines and Quarries, by the Mining Qualifications Authority, gives the company an advantage over competitors. The course is also available to customers as part of AEL’s business offering and delegates receive a certificate of competence for attending a registered and accredited skills programme. Employees from AEL in Botswana, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ghana, Egypt, Chile and Indonesia also attended this course and other Explosives Engineering courses during 2015.

Courses were divided into the following disciplines:

Safety: 869 employees
Technical Skills Development: 302 employees
Behavioural Skills Development: 907 employees
Equipment handling: 373 employees
Operational Requirements: 465 employees

As part of AEL’s commitment to uplifting local communities, 39 unemployed learners were offered an opportunity to study towards the Chemical Operations National Qualification Framework (“NQF”) Level 2 learnership. A further 26 unemployed learners were retained for the NQF Level 3 learnership.  49 permanently employed operators were also given the opportunity to take part in this Learnership for NQF Levels 2, 3 and 4, in line with the company’s aim of providing valuable skills towards sustainable long-term career growth. A Freight Handling NQF Level 3 learnership was presented to eight unemployed learners for the first time in 2015. Unemployed apprentices continued with their studies towards various trade qualifications and a further five apprentices were taken on during the reporting period.

AEL participated in the annual Wits Chemistry Career Day, providing students with information about career prospects after obtaining their degrees and creating interest in AEL as the employer of choice. AEL also hosted the annual engineering student day events at its Skills Development Centre, Modderfontein, where mining engineering students are exposed to the practical application of their training. This year’s events were attended by 337 students from the Universities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Wits and UNISA.

AEL also hosted the annual Workshop for Explosive Engineers and Technical Representatives Conference, with the theme “Looking toward the future with electronic blasting systems”. More than 300 delegates from around the globe attended. At the conclusion of the Conference seven AEL employees were awarded their Explosives Engineering qualification.

Specialty chemicals and AECI Head Office

Learning and Development initiatives focused on accelerating the development of employees from designated groups through their acquisition of skills and competencies:

behavioural training programmes were presented at the Chloorkop and Umbogintwini Training centres focusing on a wide variety of disciplines including Industrial Relations, Employment Equity, Performance Management, Safety, Supervisory Development, Operational Finance, and Wellness;

a new Sales and Marketing NQF Level 3 learnership was presented to 17 employees and one unemployed learner for the first time. It is anticipated this type of initiative will create a pipeline of competent sales people who will be able to increase sales particularly in the agricultural, water treatment, food and specialty chemicals sectors;

the Engineers for Africa programme focuses on professional registration for chemical engineers. 12 engineers from the Group are expected to register in 2016;

five unemployed learners living with disabilities were offered a Business Administration NQF Level 4 learnership. This initiative will be offered again in 2016 in support of the Group’s Disability Programme;

the retention of unemployed learners remained a core focus and extension of the Chemical Operations learnership to NQF Level 3 has provided a solid platform for this strategy. 70% of learners who started on this learnership in 2013 were employed permanently in 2015;

this strategy will also assist Group businesses in improving their B-BBEE scores during the 2016 verification audits as five bonus points are available for the retention of learners within the B-BBEE Amended Codes of Good Practice;

the Discretionary Grant funds approved by the CHIETA continued to be used for learning opportunities for unemployed learners, interns and apprentices in a variety of disciplines;

the Training Centre at Umbogintwini remained available as a sponsored venue over weekends for the Programme for Technical Careers’ hosting of learners in Grades 10, 11 and 12. They receive tutoring in Mathematics, and the Physical and Life sciences. Approximately 100 learners from surrounding communities have attended this programme.


Acacia Operations Services offered a Waste Water Learnership for the first time during 2015. 10 Waste and Sewage Plant Operators benefited. The Learnership is presented by the Water Academy and employees will be trained towards NQF Level 3 to comply with requirements as set out in the Blue and Green Drop System, introduced by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation. The learners are expected to complete the qualification in 2016;

the company indentured seven apprentices with the CHIETA for the electrical and mechanical trades. One apprentice is scheduled to complete the qualification early in 2016;

10 learners from local high schools were provided with one week of work experience. In addition, 100 employees and contractors attended training programmes in Communication Skills, Waste Legislation, Wellness, Performance Management, Competition Law, First Aid and SHE.


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