The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy hosted the 2023 Learners Focus Week (LFW) programme in Cape Town recently to encourage the next generation of mining and energy specialists.
The 2023 LFW took place at the University of Cape Town and saw over 250 high school learners from across South Africa gather for the programme which ran across seven days.
Fuel company Astron Energy was among a number of corporates which had a presence at the LFW in order to share knowledge and expertise through its involvement in these sectors.
A major focus of the week was to encourage learners to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to help address the shortage of critical skills required to ensure the sustainability of the mining and energy sectors.
Learners were also informed of and exposed to various career opportunities within the mining and energy sectors and a number of them were taken on a site visit of the Astron Energy refinery in Milnerton which was recently brought back online.
The LFW was open to high school learners from Grade 10-12 at public schools interested in subjects in the STEM field.
The competition element of the week required learners to “identify problems and challenges affecting the mining and energy sectors in their school, community, or environment”. The participants were then asked to undertake research and develop a model which depicts a solution that will address these challenges.
Under the energy sector, learners had to look at Hydrocarbons, Electricity, Renewable Energy, Nuclear and Clean Energy and Environment. The Mining and Minerals category included Open Cast/ Surface Mining, Underground Mining, Deep-Sea Mining and Environment Management.
According to the DMRE, the South African mining industry contributes between 7-8% to the economy, whilst the electricity, gas and water sector contributes an added value of approximately R64.6 to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Representatives from Astron Energy formed part of the adjudication panel and also provided industry insights to learners.
Astron Energy’s Transformation Manager, Vuyelwa Sono said: “As a major player in the fuel industry supporting amongst others, the mining sector, we understand the importance of the energy and mining sectors to the economic well-being of our country as engines of job creation and economic growth.
“Programmes such as the Learner Focus Week are key to encouraging and growing a pool of young talent to address the shortage of critical skills in our economy, including across mining and energy.”
Astron Energy has invested significantly in science, coding and robotics as part of its approach which it calls STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths – to help improve literacy levels, develop problem-solving skills, and give young people the tools to succeed in a future and increasingly digital future.
“Increasingly we are seeing the intersection between traditional industries such as mining and new technologies. We have to prepare and equip young people with the necessary skills to help address the critical skills gaps in our economy and build a pipeline of talent for a sustainable future,” Sono added.
Astron Energy is South Africa's second largest petroleum retail network of over 850 service stations in South Africa.
The company has invested over R21 million in future skills programmes, and via strategic partnerships, reaches more than 30,000 learners, youth and educators across South Africa each year.