Scaling up skills
A qualified and productive workforce in mining operations is of utmost importance. Pavan Kaushik elaborates on the efforts of Hindustan Zinc (HZL) and its Mining Academy in enhancing the skill levels of mining machine operators through its various hands-on training courses.

The natural resources industry in India has seen significant changes in the past 10 years in terms of technology, employment generation, metal production and attracting best of Indian and global talents of engineers and management graduates. The growth of mining projects in India has resulted in huge demands of skilled operators to operate sophisticated mining equipment such as jumbo drill, load haul dumper (LHD), low profile dumper truck (LPDT), etc. Hindustan Zinc Mining Academy is preparing the youth for these new and exciting opportunities.

The beginning In the past few years, there has been a tremendous growth in the mining sector worldwide and India is no exception. The demand of manpower in the natural resources sector is increasing year-after-year. To meet this demand, many international experts have joined at key positions to explore natural resources, improve metal recovery and build a future of sustainable mining.

As the industry is growing with the advent of automation and technology, the need for trained manpower is also increasing. This is where the Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the scope of employment opportunities with growth in natural resources sector. This led Hindustan Zinc, India's only and world's leading integrated producer of zinc, lead and silver, to identify areas that play crucial role in underground mining where the need for skilled manpower is being felt with a need to tap local talent. HZL has set up the Hindustan Zinc Mining Academy in collaboration with the Skill Council for Mining Sector and the training partner, Indian Institute of Skill Development Pvt Ltd.

Jumbo drill operators and winding engine operators came out as two distinct roles where the need for Indian skilled manpower could be deployed. These are currently being operated by expats at very high cost. Hindustan Zinc itself engages about 200 jumbo drill operators and 45 winding engine operators through business partners. The opportunities are set to move up with an increase in expansion of mines.

The Mining Academy was started as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative on August 1, 2014. The vision of this initiative was to provide a platform to local youth for developing highly specialised skills to operate the latest and the most advanced equipment used in underground mining operations, while making them self-reliant and opening paths for sustainable livelihood. The initiative has successfully delivered two batches of six-month residential programme on jumbo drill operators, followed by a six-month residential programme on underground mining equipment. In 2014-15, the academy trained 55 ITI/Diploma pass-outs in the jumbo drill and all of them got immediate placements.

After the huge success of the programme, Hindustan Zinc envisioned and made the programme more robust with quality changes. Currently, the academy runs three centres at Bhilwara, Rajsamand and Zawar near Udaipur, with 260 candidates from all over Rajasthan.

In October 2016, Hindustan Zinc commenced jumbo drill operator training to 120 ITI/Diploma pass-outs and their training will be complete by March 2018. In the winding engine operator training programme, 47 ITI/Diploma pass-outs were enrolled in February 2017 and their eight-month long training was completed in October 2017. Besides winding engine training, these candidates are also being given exposure in banksman and bellman operations.

The facility and courses
Hindustan Zinc extends high-tech facility for VTC training, simulation, and hands-on training for learning maintenance and operations required in underground mines. The candidates are able to operate real machines and are given industry exposure before they complete the course as per requirement. For jumbo drill operators, the company has set up a 3-D simulator, which is a virtual reality high-tech device used in Hindustan Zinc to train the operators in heavy machinery. The 3-D simulators are cost-effective, safe, and efficient methods for training all concepts and skills, from controls familiarisation to procedure compliance. Simulation training maximises productivity and increases workforce efficiency.

Hindustan Zinc also engages experts from its locations for taking expert faculty interface classes periodically, and also invites its business partners for engagement with candidates.

All academy centres run in a professional manner with inbuilt monthly monitoring system. Since the course is residential, the academy has a provision for free boarding and lodging facilities for all the selected candidates in all the training programmes.

Equal emphasis is being given on classroom lectures and practical exposures to the students for enabling them to develop a better understanding of the module. The trainees are being groomed in various aspects like soft skills, team effort, discipline and overall personality development, which would further help them in securing sustainable livelihood in future.

Also, uniform for class-room and practical sessions are being provided by the academy to all candidates. They are also engaged in various indoor and outdoor sports - cricket, volleyball, badminton, chess, carom board, football etc.

Selection criteria
It was assessed as an opportunity for the ITI pass-outs and diploma holders who are below the age of 30 years and who are qualified to operate equipment through training.

The candidates are being invited through advertisements in prominent newspapers as well as channels like FM Radio, WhatsApp and jingles are also engaged to create the buzz.

Application forms available on the mentioned website are to be filled online and then all applicants have to appear for written test (aptitude/respect for rules/IQ/English proficiency test etc). Successful participants are then called for documents check, medical fitness test, police verification for final selection/completion of the course and then proceed for interview. Also, all existing trainees act as brand ambassadors and communicate through their channels.

Evaluation process
The training assessment has inbuilt weekly and monthly tests, followed by quarterly third-party assessment. Candidates successfully fulfilling passing criteria each month and in the third-party quarterly assessment are being awarded with National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) certifications. The Government of India notified the NSQF on December 27, 2013. This is a competence-based framework that organises all qualifications according to a series of knowledge, skills and aptitude.

Certification based on National Occupational Standards is facilitated by Skill Council for Mining Sector (SCMS) after third-party assessment to the enrolled candidates who successfully complete the programme. The National Occupational Standards specify the standard of performance an individual must achieve when carrying out a role at the workplace, together with the knowledge and understanding they need to meet that standard consistently.

The candidates are given stipend ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 7,000 and also performance top-up according to set criteria based on their attendance and assessment performance, which motivates high performers to give their best. Further, to boost the confidence, centre-wise toppers and overall toppers are also given cash reward on quarterly basis, ranging Rs 5,000-10,000 during the course.

Apart from certification and monetary rewards, SCMS conducts an internal auditor assessment as well through reputed third-party audit checks like KPMG that are monitored by a designated Project Steering Committee comprising senior executives.

Importance of skill development in mining
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, over the last decade, the contribution of mining to India's GDP has fallen from 1.2 per cent to one per cent. If properly tapped, the mining industry could help propel growth for the country over the next decade. In fact, the performance of mining sector will be an important factor for India to achieve over seven per cent GDP growth. The mining industry has the potential to create six million additional jobs by 2025, accounting for 12 per cent of the new non-farm job gap.

India needs to create an additional 150 million non-farm jobs by 2025, to significantly reduce poverty, and empower people. It is also need to be highlighted that there are no relevant courses available in mining space for the candidates to pursue. Apart from this, the awareness level among youth and quality of education are other bottlenecks to meet the required skills.

Mining workforce is crucial for sustainable development of the sector, especially as there could be incremental demand of 1.5-2.5 times of the current workforce by 2025. To bridge the imminent shortage of human resource in mining sector, there are two possibilities that can be considered: increase the number of seats in mining engineering in relevant institutes over the next 10-15 years.

The second solution is to devise short-term mining-specific courses for ITIs/diploma holders in mining states by facilitating private sector participation in skill development for the mining sector.

Setting up perhaps India's first Mining Academy, Hindustan Zinc is developing an ecosystem and contributing in unlocking India's potential in mining. This is certainly going to enhance India's capability in training people in the mining space and putting India on the growth path.

Definitely, a long-term vision and consistent effort is going to make India self-reliant on such mining skills, which presently is outsourced mostly from abroad. This has helped local youth to gain meaningful employment, and enhance employability of eligible youth. To some extent, it has also ensured sustained availability of adequate trained operators for the growing mining sector in India that completely aligns with 'Make in India' concept and act as a catalyst in nation building.

There is a need to drive initiatives for the overall development of the mining sector. The major challenge in training people in mining is availability of proper infrastructure. The equipment is costly and sophisticated. Hindustan Zinc has provided simulators and has made its underground mines accessible for training, which is substituting need for the required infrastructure. Also, to enhance the personalities and imbibe discipline in these candidates, the programme has been made fully residential. The attrition is almost nil at Mining Academy, which itself speaks about its credibility and standard with qualitative training.

Future plans
Hindustan Zinc plans to spend Rs 30 crore in five years to train about 500 ITI pass-outs in jumbo drill and winding engine operations. The academy is determined to have the jumbo drill batches every six months, which is well in place. The academy also provides training on other trades like winding engine, banksman, bellman, etc; an exclusive jumbo operator programme for ex-servicemen that started in October 2017 and another batch of regular jumbo drill programmes to start in January 2018. Currently, there are approximately 260 candidates on board at the academy across its three centres.

To further strengthen the foundation of Mining Academy, Hindustan Zinc is exploring the possibilities to run it through a registered society. The academy is even planning to initiate online assessment for entrance examinations and has started a step-up programme for rural youth residing near Hindustan Zinc's business locations. This is a pre-coaching programme to encourage and prepare these youth for entrance examination to join the course.

The academy has also initiated campus placement process for the batches completed in October 2017 for jumbo drill operation and winding engine operations wherein all business partners are invited to recruit the candidates for mining sector.

The academy provides an exclusive jumbo operator programme for ex-servicemen that started in October 2017. another batch of regular jumbo drill programmes is to start in January 2018.

The author is Head - Corporate Communication, Hindustan Zinc. Follow him on