The Namibian mining industry has spent a good N$55 million on skills development of locals, the Chamber of Mines of Namibia latest financial report for 2011/2012 reveals.
The figure is arguably among the highest amounts spent by a single sector within a year in driving the agenda of skills development and capacity building in the local population.
The expenditure on technical capacity building through giving local students bursaries to advance their careers in mining and mining related fields comes at a time there is increasing demand of qualified personnel in the extractive sector.
The mining industry has a growing concern over shortage of local well qualified technical experts especially in mining engineering, metallurgy and geologist as the only batch of engineering graduates locally from the University of Namibia came in the recent graduation.
"The mining industry spent some N$55 million on training and skills development, awarding 110 new bursaries to tertiary institutions in 2011. NIMT continues to produce between 300 and 500 artisans of excellent quality each year. These critical skills form the backbone of our industry," the report noted.
The report released by the chamber also argues that, "The mining industry is fully supportive of sponsoring hundreds of students on full bursary, as well as offering job attachments to many more students. Including temporary employees and full time contractors, the total employment figure of the Namibian mining and exploration industry is 14 328."
Although the mining industry is among the top employers in the country after government and the agricultural sector, there has been a laxity in the industry investing more in training locals with some of the mines relying on expatriate labour for the most technical work, while a few locals would get the lesser challenging jobs.
A good number of South African, Australian and Canadian experts are in the mining sector holding the challenging and technical work.
According to the report the mining industry which contributes 11% of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while earning 55% of the country’s total foreign currency earnings directly employs 7 306 people in permanent positions, an increase of 459 employees or 6.7% on the employment figures for 2010.
"It is estimated that the multiplier effect for each employee is around seven.
Therefore, it is likely that the mining industry directly and indirectly provides an income for some 100 000 people. This is a significant figure in a country with a population of only 2.3 million but with an exceptionally high unemployment rate," the report further notes.
Recently the Chamber of Mines Chief Executive Officer Veston Malango also alluded that local training will remain a vital cog in the development of local skills in the extractive sector, adding that there is also need for the industry to continue with the highest level of skills transfer.