The Durban-based crude oil refinery joint venture (JV) between Shell South Africa Refining and BP Southern Africa – Sapref – in January, awarded 70 pupils with a training opportunity, which includes bursaries for university studies in the fields of engineering and artisan training through the Durban South Training Trust.
The skills development programme also comprises learnerships at Sapref’s accredited training college, a graduate engineer programme, internships and a school talent pipeline programme.
The training opportunities are part of the refinery’s R18-million skills and development programme, which has been running for several years and has benefited a total of 430 pupils to date.
“Through the integrated programme, Sapref aims to play its part in addressing the shortage of technical and engineering skills in the country, while addressing the JV’s need for highly skilled professionals,” says Sapref human resources manager Lindiwe Khuzwayo.
Currently, 285 learners are part of Sapref’s various learnership programmes. Trainees on the programme comprise matriculants, students from technical vocational education and training colleges and learners completing their in-service training, having completed their studies at university.
“The learnerships are structured such that learners obtain maximum practical and technical skills to supplement theoretical knowledge, which ensures that the learners are employable within the petrochemicals and other chemicals industries upon completing these programmes,” she explains.
Sapref recently appointed Christopher Perumal – a past talent pipeline student and bursary holder – as a graduate engineer after having been part of the skills development programme for seven years.
“With the financial burden alleviated, I was able to pursue my dream of being an engineer without much stress,” he notes, adding that exposure to Sapref’s operations through his mentor at the refinery has been the building block to establishing a career as an employee at the company.
Sapref MD Ton Wielers highlights that the refinery’s need for skilled operators and engineers will grow in the upcoming years, owing to new projects and operations. As a result, the JV has increased the number of learnerhips and bursaries the company is offering this year.
As a JV, Sapref is the largest crude oil refinery in Southern Africa and has been in operation for 52 years, producing 8.5-million tons a year of crude oil.
The company’s facilities include the refinery in the South Durban basin, storage facilities at the harbour in Island View, a single buoy mooring where tankers offload about 80% of South Africa’s crude oil imports and joint bunkering services operated on behalf of various petroleum companies.
Petroleum products produced by Sapref include petrol, diesel, paraffin, aviation fuel, liquid petroleum gas, base oil, solvents and marine fuel oil.