Murray & Roberts Chair in Industry Leadership 4.0 launched in Department of Mining Engineering

Posted on January 20, 2020

The purpose of this research chair is to provide specialised skills and capacity building that are essential to the implementation of optimised systems related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution through defined leadership strategies, particularly as they relate to the mining and minerals-related industries. Murray & Roberts has committed its support of this new chair for the next three years.

Speaking at the launch, Prof Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, expressed his appreciation for the involvement and support of Murray & Roberts in the research activities of the Department of Mining Engineering, and for the intent of this multinational engineering and construction group to foster closer relationships with the University of Pretoria.

If one looks at the challenges facing the mining industry in the future with regard to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is evident that leadership and the implementation of new technology will go hand in hand. The mechanisation and modernisation of the workplace of the future will entail leadership in cyber-physical systems, cloud computing, the internet of things and cognitive computing.

Within these contexts, leaders will necessarily have to contend with increasingly complex decision making, while exercising emotional intelligence and inspiring, motivating and dealing with this complexity in an uncertain world. More than ever, graduates are entering the workplace at a time when introspective leaders are needed, who will be able to continually challenge and develop their analytical ability and leadership effectiveness.

For enterprises to compete, grow and create jobs, they must ensure that they have access to people who can lead in a world of high-tech innovation and disruptive technologies; technologies that will transform industry. Successful leadership development will depend on industry’s commitment to increase investments in innovation, equip the workforce with relevant skills at all levels, and successfully deliver goods and services with a higher value.

According to Head of Department, Prof Ronny Webber-Youngman, engineering is one of the careers that will be central to this highly technical landscape. In recognition of the fact that there was no pre-career leadership preparation programme for future leaders in this field, the Department of Mining Engineering launched a Mining Engineering Leadership Academy (MELA) in 2009, with the objective of providing students entering the workplace with improved self-awareness, interpersonal communication skills, and the ability to work in multidisciplinary settings and in diverse groups spanning many generations.

With the rapid and practically exponential advancement of technology in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, the need to address leadership development on a broader scale in engineering, the construction industry, as well as at university level, is at a critical juncture.

The establishment of the Murray & Roberts Chair in Industry Leadership 4.0 illustrates the Department’s innovative approach to grooming future leaders. Through this chair, the importance of quality leadership in the implementation of new technology is recognised. Through focused leadership training, companies will therefore be able to become more competitive and sustainable in terms of their growth strategies. “It is my sincere opinion that the quality of leadership in future will be a game-changer in distinguishing good companies from great companies,” says Prof Webber-Youngman.

Some of the key interventions foreseen in this new research chair are leadership workshops, research in the adoption of new technology and related article publications, particularly involving postgraduate researchers as part of capacity building. It will also facilitate training and continuing professional development.

Mr Henry Laas, CEO of Murray and Roberts Holdings, and also an alumnus of the University of Pretoria, reinforced the importance of developing skills to function in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and as such expressed his excitement in investing in an initiative that would benefit industry at large, from a leadership point of view, by preparing students for the competitive, high-technology demands of the future.


- Author Janine Smit
Published by Marietha Hicks

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