AECI Much Asphalt is Southern Africa’s largest commercial asphalt producer. The sustainability of the South African asphalt industry and the communities where the firm runs its 14 asphalt plants and three binder plants is critical to its growth and success. The firm’s flagship plant and biggest employer is in Benoni.

AECI Much Asphalt recognises unemployment and a scarcity of skills as major threats to the future of its business. The company has used creative thinking to build a loyal, productive workforce and ensure that small enterprises using its products have the skills to succeed.

Looking for solutions to its diverse employment requirements in environments characterised by massive youth unemployment, AECI Much Asphalt partnered with Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a not-for-profit social enterprise that brings business together with young people seeking work. That was five years ago and has been a win-win for the company, the community and the individual, says Ayesha Isaacs, group manager: Human Capital at AECI Much Asphalt.

“We know how hard it is to find employment, especially if you don’t have any form of work experience,” says Isaacs. “We see this as an opportunity to recruit fresh talent, to give high-potential candidates a chance to grow with our business and our values.”

Some 60 jobseekers – from matriculants to graduates – have entered AECI Much Asphalt via this source over the years.

“We employ candidates on a six-month contract. They spend two months at the weighbridge (where asphalt is weighed prior to dispatch}, two months in the laboratory (where product testing and development take place), and two months at the asphalt plant,” Isaacs explains.

“This way we find where the candidates show the most flair. Those who are the best fit are offered full-time employment, while the remaining candidates complete the fixed-term contract with six months of paid training.”

This arrangement not only reduces the risk to AECI Much Asphalt, but also gives all candidates a better chance of future employment after six months of intensive practical training. They leave with skills that will stand them in good stead moving forward. “We are known for producing top-calibre employees.” AECI Much Asphalt has recruited 16full-time employees via this partnership, with several of them working in its Gauteng Regional Laboratory in Benoni and at the Benoni asphalt plant. The firm also offers internships for students required to do in-service training as part of their qualifications, as well as internal learnerships for employees.

FREE TECHNICAL SKILLS FOR SMMES

In another initiative that helps to build competence within the roads sector, AECI Much Asphalt offers free workshops to customers such as SMMEs and government departments that use asphalt for small projects. “We launched this initiative 15 years ago to promote sustainable asphalt paving on South Africa’s roads and help emerging contractors grow their businesses,” says managing director Bennie Greyling. “By sharing skills on how to use our products properly, we hope to provide employment opportunities in the construction sector and broaden our client base.”

The Best Practice Workshop on Hand Laid Hot Mix Asphalt provides practical instruction on techniques for the placement of hot mix asphalt by hand on small projects. Each delegate receives a manual on the selection, use and application of AECI Much Asphalt’s products and a certificate. Many hundreds of individuals have received the training across South Africa since the workshops were launched in 2006. “At the end of the day, AECI Much Asphalt and the contractor placing our product have a joint responsibility for its quality,” says Greyling. “We need to work together for the best outcomes.”

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