Caterpillar tips in billion dollar investment to boost footprint and skills in Africa
The investment will further enhance expansion of dealer footprint and skills development on the continent.
To further boost its dealer footprint, as well as providing critical skills training for the long-term growth of its business in Africa, Caterpillar, together with its independent dealers and the Caterpillar Foundation, has announced plans to invest a massive US$1-billion into African countries in the next five years.
The announcement, made by Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman, who is currently participating in the US-Africa Business Forum (USABF) in New York City, reconfirms Caterpillar’s long-term commitment to the continent and is intended to provide a major upgrade in customer service capabilities – including enhanced parts distribution capacity, new state-of-the-art Certified Rebuild Centres, new dealer branch locations, the expansion of Caterpillar’s Technicians for Africa online skills development programme and millions of dollars to support programmes that lift people out of poverty.
With approximately 15 000 Caterpillar and Cat dealer employees in Africa, Caterpillar already has a significant footprint in a market it deems important and growing. “Caterpillar’s investment will increase that footprint, while simultaneously boosting the infrastructure development and skills training capabilities necessary in African countries for them to continue their rise in global competitiveness,” the company says.
“For 90 years, Caterpillar machines have helped build critical infrastructure projects throughout Africa. Today, we bring not only construction machinery to the continent, but also traditional and renewable power generation solutions, diesel-electric locomotives, marine engines and mining equipment,” says Oberhelman. “With today’s announcement, we are proudly confirming our plan to make a long-term investment to help build, develop and power communities, and serve as an education and training partner to broaden and strengthen local workforce talent and expertise.”
Tackling workforce issues in Africa
As part of UN Week, Oberhelman will participate in a skills development discussion panel during the African Business Forum with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana and IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty. During the discussion, Oberhelman will highlight Caterpillar’s significant progress since last year’s launch of its Technicians for Africa, a free, online learning platform for Africans seeking to develop important technical skills needed to pursue a career as an equipment technician, in 2015.
Oberhelman has since expressed satisfaction over the success of the program to date and the expansion plans. “Technicians are essential for our dealers and customers; they keep projects on schedule and customers productive. With investment and innovation – and through projects like Technicians for Africa – we can address the skills gap that currently exists. In 2017, Caterpillar will expand the availability of Technicians for Africa from three to 15 countries, and we expect thousands of people to benefit.”
Caterpillar’s African ventures in numbers
Since 2010, the Caterpillar Foundation has invested about US$50-million to support projects in Africa focused on impacting those living in poverty, and specifically girls and women, through training, policy work, entrepreneurship programmes and more. These investments are benefiting many people with access to education, energy, clean water and sanitation and microfinance. Building on these historical investments, the Caterpillar Foundation will commit an additional US$15-million by the year 2020 to organisations working to improve lives across Africa.
Young people between the ages of 15 and 25 represent more than 60% of Africa’s total population, with the unemployment rate estimated to be over 20%. On the back of this dilemma, Caterpillar created its free Technicians for Africa online learning management system. Using the same material it has developed for training its own employees, it has created an 18 module online course, aimed at anyone with a technical background who is looking to gain the competitive edge in the mining and construction industries.
The course is structured with easy-to-understand technical insights and is accessed by a desktop computer, tablet or smart phone and decent internet connection. The modules are informative and each takes approximately 1 hour to complete. Once all 18 modules are finished, the learner is issued with a certificate from Caterpillar. Caterpillar says by offering this type of free training, it hopes to empower people with little or no other opportunity to start the learning process required to become a fully trained technician.
Barloworld takes initiative
Meanwhile, Barloworld Equipment, Caterpillar’s southern African dealer, has over the years taken initiative with its own skills development programme to develop the skills it needs. An ongoing investment in artisan training, as well as specialist engineering career development ensures that the skills are on hand to deliver expert solutions in all areas.
Barloworld Equipment’s Technical Training Centre in Isando, Johannesburg, trains and certifies Cat earthmoving mechanics to South African National Qualifications (NQF) Level 3 standard and fully complies with Caterpillar standards.
Founded in January 2004, with the aim of including operator skills as part of the company’s offering to customers, the Barloworld Equipment Operator Academy incorporates practical and theoretical components, and ensures that all operators employed by the Barloworld Equipment Cat Rental Store are certified.
Equipment Africa says: Caterpillar may be the biggest earthmoving equipment maker globally with a reach spanning from Peoria to Pretoria, coupled with innovative products that continue to set industry benchmarks and a dealer network that delivers some of the best customer service in the world, but it also understands that the future growth of its business, especially in a developing market such as Africa, lies in the development of critical skills and communities it operates in. This initiative will go a long way in developing a resources pool the company and its dealers will leverage on for the long-term growth of their businesses.