Sustainability/ Learning and development

Learning and development

Learning and training are key components of AECI’s Employee Value Proposition. Building skills and behaviours that promote a culture of continuous learning, leadership and diversity is imperative for achieving the Group’s strategic goals and objectives, including its EE targets.

Training programmes ensure the timely availability of the Group’s human capital requirements and learning interventions aim to deliver well-rounded, competent employees who make contributions that provide them with personal growth and facilitate increased productivity as well as improved shareholder value.

The focus of the Learning and Development function remains on allowing employees to grow and advance their careers in the Group. The banded learning and development approach gives employees opportunities to participate in programmes appropriate to their levels of work, but also to attend interventions at more advanced levels.

In 2016 the Group increased its financial assistance for employees, through the Employee Study Assistance Scheme, by 26% compared to an increase of 22% in the prior year. See the table below.

The following qualifications are examples of the courses of study pursued: Master’s in Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts Psychology in Human Resources, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Accounting Science Degrees, and National Diplomas in Electrical Engineering, Analytical Chemistry, Safety Managementand Operations Management.

2014 82 63 0 8 5 16 7 8 94 95 189 R1,9 million
2015 46 33 3 4 8 10 11 9 68 56 124 R2,3 million
2016 89 59 5 11 11 15 12 14 117 99 216 R2,9 million
TOTAL 217 155 8 23 24 41 30 31 279 250 529 R7,1 million

Skills Development (“SD”) is a priority element in the Amended Codes and it is vital that Group businesses in South Africa achieve the 40% threshold required. Some expenditure previously accounted for as SED funding is now part of the SD element in the Amended Codes. Therefore, the Group’s investments in the External Bursary and the Employee Dependant Bursary Schemes will be measured as SD in future.

AECI sponsored full-time students, primarily from designated groups, who were studying towards qualifications identified as being critical and scarce skills, through the External Bursary Scheme.Fields of study included chemistry, agriculture, and chemical, mechanical and mining engineering. Graduates of the scheme are employed in the Group for a minimum of 12 months as part of the bursary work-back requirements and to gain industry experience, dependent on positions available in the Group. Eight students graduated during 2016 and they were all placed.

  NO. OF
IN 2016
EXTERNAL 26 96 73 R1 759 000
TOTAL BENEFICIARIES 53 96 70 R2 386 000

More than R1,7 million was invested in 26 students, compared to R1,1 million and 20 students in the prior year. In 2016, the Learning and Development function also launched a programme that aims to facilitate stronger relationships with bursary students through their years of study.

All students who were available for vacation work were placed in the Group and the services of a social mentor were provided to students experiencing difficulties with their studies or in other aspects of their lives. It is anticipated that these interventions will assist in improving AECI’s ability to retain graduates. Group representatives attended various open days at universities, promoting the employer brand and providing advice on bursary opportunities and career prospects.

Further financial support was provided through the Employee Dependent Bursary Scheme to dependents of employees in lower income brackets. Bursary recipients are required to register with an accredited educational institution for a tertiary qualification, irrespective of their chosen course of study. The number of bursary holders increased to 27 in 2016, compared to 24 in 2015. Two students who benefited from this Scheme graduated, majoring in Chemistry, and they will join the Group for 12 months of graduate development in 2017.

AECI’s learning and development strategiesare aligned with the Employment Equity Act, and the Skills Development Act, No. 97 of 1998. Accordingly, the Workplace Skills Plans and Annual Training Reports of Group businesses in South Africa were submitted timeously to the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (“CHIETA”), as required by legislation.

The CHIETA landscape changed markedly after grant amendments to skills development legislation were made in 2014. Many projects which were paid for previously were no longer approved as these fell outside of the grant cycle funding period or the CHIETA’s financial year. As a consequence, AECI received a lesser amount year-on-year.

R MILLIONS 2014 2015 2016
MANDATORY 3,46 4,20 4,26
DISCRETIONARY 6,76 4,41 2,82
TOTAL GRANTS 10,22 8,61 7,08

The reduction in the Discretionary funding between 2014 and 2015 is evident in the table above. In 2015 and 2016, AECI and the CHIETA collaborated to reach agreement on the approval or disapproval criteria for funding. This will assist the Company when applying for future financial support and the agreed criteria were applied in the 2016/17 applications.

Funding for 2016 included payments received to end-September. These receipts will increase when the CHIETA makes further payments in lieu and when Discretionary Grant interventions have been completed.

The CHIETA recognised AECI’s training contributions towards learnership opportunities for the unemployed youth in South Africa at the annual CHIETA Best Companies Awards Ceremony late in the year. The Company was presented with two prizes and associated cash awards of R150 000 each. Four Group companies or operating sites also received accreditation as approved workplaces for offering experiential learning for learnerships and apprenticeships.

The Group remained well represented in legislative forums in CHIETA structures. Subject matter experts represented AECI at employer organisations including the National Association of 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 that are suitable and beneficial to the sectors in which it operates.