The industrial sector in Oman is the cornerstone of its long term development strategy. The Vision 2020 established for the period 1995 – 2020 aims to create a strong industrial sector that Oman can rely on for the future other than Oil. The creation of Sohar Aluminium came about as a result of this Vision.
With a clear mission to pursue ‘intelligent Omanisation’, Sohar Aluminium has set an invaluable precedent for other industrial units that are endeavouring to make a contribution to the development of the nationals in particular and the country in general.
Among the many firsts that the Company has achieved and many honours that it has brought to the country, the most glittering achievements are related to its remarkable efforts to implement the Omanisation policy.
Inaugurated in 2009, Sohar Aluminium has been awarded as the fastest-nationalised company in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region. The Company was also selected as the best Company for two years in a row (2011 and 2012), and has been awarded the Excellence Award in Social Responsibility 2013 by the Arab Social Responsibility Organization.
With Vision 2020 in mind, Sohar Aluminium is committed to attract, support and retain Omani talents, thus achieving one of the highest Omanisation rates in the country in the industrial category with a 72% of Omanisation in its workforce.
“There are various on-going exercises, such as succession planning which aims to effectively increase the number of Omanis, particularly at higher levels. Out of our Omani employees, 81 per cent are from North Al Batinah. This comes from the Company’s commitment to support the local community by providing direct job opportunities” says Faisal Al Balushi, Human Resources Administration Manager at Sohar Aluminium.
Job creation and SMEs
Sohar Aluminium is playing a great role in creating job opportunities, especially for downstream industries and SMEs.
The total number of direct employees working at the Company is 988 and the industrial unit provides more than 2,000 indirect employment opportunities.
Also, as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are coming into a greater focus in the Sultanate, Sohar Aluminium has dedicated a great deal of its efforts to the development of these business units. Over 60% of the purchases come from local SMEs, and the Company’s goal is to increase the localisation of purchases.
Sohar Aluminium business plan calls for 32% of aluminium production to be supplied to local downstream companies while exporting the rest. The Company’s commitment is to increase this local supply up to 60%.
“The effective utilisation of the collective technical experience has played a major role in the development and training of Omanis,” Al Belushi said.
The Company focuses a lot on creating sustainable business opportunities for Omanis and also help individuals set up their own businesses. There have been some medically challenged people whom have been helped start their own business as part of the Company’s CSR framework.
Sohar Aluminium’s achievement in Omanisation and its outstanding performance is largely attributed to the practical training programmes offered by the Company.
Speaking to Times of Oman, Kevin Rees, Human Resources Development Principal at Sohar Aluminium, said that the Company provides training free of cost for Omanis who meet the basic qualifications.
The Company’s fully-fledged Training Centre is the only specialised centre in the smelter industry in the whole GCC and, according to Rees, roughly $2 million is spent on training every year with a plan to increase training spend in the future.
There are plans to upgrade the status of the training centre to an academy where research and development can also take place, he said, noting that an average of 70,000 training hours are offered per year.
Certificates are issued to the trainees, and there are plans to make them internationally recognised through the cooperation of the authorities concerned in Oman and partnership with international institutes.
Sohar Aluminium offers a number of short-term and long-term training courses at all levels in various areas, including mechanical, electronic, instrumentation, fabrication and safety.
“We have different programmes, including courses for supervisors and superintendents and leadership development programme to groom the trainees for managerial positions,” said Rees.
Sohar Aluminium also offers a Summer Student Training Program (SSTP) for senior students in the various universities and colleges in Oman. This two-month program is designed to complement education with the workplace experience, welcoming students from various disciplines, including Engineering, Human Resources, Business Administration, Management, IT and Finance. The students are selected based on their field of study and academic achievements.
The program aims to develop the work skills of Omani youth, and provide interns with real work assignments and a chance to engage with accomplished professionals who can offer their expertise into what the industry requires in the coming years, thus helping students plan their future aspirations.
No binding contract
Sohar Aluminium employees who undergo training, such as multi-functional technician programmes, are not obliged to make a commitment to continue working for Sohar Aluminium after they complete their training course.
“We train them for the company, but even if they choose to work at another company, they will still be contributing to the country,” Al Balushi noted.
Sohar Aluminium gives job opportunities to all, yet grants priority to recruiting from within before recruiting externally. Some employees started their job as supervisors and now they are managers, said Al Belushi, inviting those interested to join Sohar Aluminium and help build a better future for the country.
Asked about the challenges facing the company, Hamad Al Jabri, Reduction Services Manager at Sohar Aluminium said “At the moment, the main internal challenge is the completion of the Pot-Relining Program. These pots, which are production generation units, have a 6-year life span, and they must be replaced in order to sustain and improve productivity and safety”. Hamad noted that the program is going very well and is anticipated to be completed on schedule.
Another, external, challenge facing Sohar Aluminium is that its selling prices are largely set by international trading on the London Metal Exchange (LME). “The unpredictable LME price levels have been an on-going challenge, with the LME at historically low levels caused by market distortions arising from the global financial crisis a few years ago”, said Jerry van Alphen, the Chief Financial Officer of the Company. “The Company has and will continue implementing cost improvement initiatives and value creation ideas that significantly help off-setting the dips in LME prices” he added.
ives and cost improvement ideas that significantly help off-setting the dips in LME prices.
Retention of Omani talents is another challenge facing Sohar Aluminium. Its annual labour turnover has decreased and is now at 5%, and the Company aims to keep turnover as low as possible by training employees and recruiting from within the Company.
Sohar Aluminium plans to increase its capacity in the next few of years and is confident that it will achieve its target, given its past track record.
The annual production capacity is 375,000 tonnes of aluminium, and there are plans to increase the annual production to 400,000 tonnes in the next few years through using an upgraded technology without the need to increase the number of our pots.
Sohar Aluminium was formed in September 2004 to undertake a landmark Greenfield aluminium smelter project in the Sultanate of Oman, and is jointly owned by Oman Oil Company, Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC - TAQA and Rio Tinto Alcan.