SPOTLIGHT ON YOUTH DEVELOPMENT: MEET AUBREY HEYMANS

Empowering the young people of South Africa with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive will always be close to Exxaro’s heart. The mining leader invests significantly in education through job-related bursaries and scholarships. One such bursary recipient, Aubrey Heymans, currently works at Exxaro’s Grootegeluk Coal Mine as a Mechanical Engineer at Engineering Development.

Aubrey develops and presents ideas for project funding, acts as an internal engineering consultant for technical queries, and also serves as a project manager on specific projects. He believes that mechanical engineering will always serve a purpose, explaining “It doesn’t matter how digital the world will become, there will always be a need for components to be manufactured and machinery to work the earth.”

Aubrey cites the multi-disciplinary nature of mechanical engineering and his intuition for the field as the main reasons why he chose to study his B.Eng Mechanical Engineering degree at North-West University through Exxaro’s bursary programme.

Commenting on his bursary experience, Aubrey praised the mining giant: “I am forever grateful for the opportunity Exxaro gave me 10 years ago, and for every opportunity since to learn, develop, and grow in this industry. It completely changed my life.”

“Initiatives like Exxaro’s bursary programme are imperative to the development of youth and the country. It’s critical to make young people aware of the various jobs available, the requirements for different roles, and the developmental programmes and opportunities out there that can help them to fulfil these roles and positions,” he added.  

Like other bursars, Aubrey joined the organisation’s Professionals in Training (PIT) programme after his studies and shared his thoughts on being an Exxaro PIT. “This period was probably one of the best times of my life. It was frightening and awe-inspiring all at once. You are forced to develop yourself and to take in as much as you can, but it doesn’t feel like effort – every new situation you face is a learning opportunity and should be seen as such.”

Reminiscing on his PIT experience, Aubrey mentioned a few highlights that included going into the deepest gold mine in the world and climbing into a boiler, which was in the process of being refurbished, at Arnot Power station.

Having now worked as a full-time employee at Exxaro for 6 years, the talented mechanical engineer has also learnt some valuable lessons along the way. “You develop a thick skin quickly when working in mining. Tasks will always be urgent, decisions will often be difficult, people around you will frequently be over-worked. Don’t take it personally. Do your part, do it as best as you can, and keep pushing forward.”

“I personally developed my own decision-making skills, learnt how to understand the larger process and prioritise my work accordingly and how to manage a team to work to a common goal,” he added.

On the topic of teamwork, Aubrey further expressed, “Treat everyone with respect. Every person you work with has a story and a purpose, and if you’re lucky enough, you may get to learn more about the people around you.”

He concluded with some nuggets of wisdom for young people wanting to build a better future for themselves. “Hard work pays off; it’s not a short-term sprint, it’s a long-term marathon. Take every single thing you do, and do that one thing to the best of your ability.” 

In 2019, Exxaro invested a total of R224 million in job-related bursaries and scholarships.