STAFF PROFILE: Maropeng Maintenance Supervisor – Phillip Mkhize

  • November 03, 2012

There are some people, who with quiet dignity and grace, can teach one a lot about humanity and leadership. One of those people is Phillip Mkhize, maintenance supervisor at Maropeng Visitors’ Centre in the Cradle of Humankind.

Phillip has been with Maropeng since its inception in 2006 and quickly rose through the ranks to become maintenance supervisor, leading a team of 11 staff members, who work studiously behind the scenes to ensure that there are no hiccups in the day-to-day operations of one of Gauteng’s most popular and renowned tourist attractions.

His first job was as a storeman, but thanks to intensive mentoring by Scotsman, Jim O’Neil at the Carlton Centre, Phillip started working in the tourism and hospitality industry in 1979, - working at the Carlton Hotel for 18 years as a handyman. “Jim was an exceptional man who saw potential in me and trusted in me and so, started training me as a handyman, helping me develop a much-need skill that helped me advance in my career,” explains Phillip.

Since then, Phillip has tried to pay that gift of trust and skills development forward by internally promoting those staff members who show promise and providing in-house training for them where needed, along with external, formal training where applicable. “We do have the skills in South Africa but often, businesses don’t give their internal staff a chance to develop skills. And when you find an intelligent, hard-working employee who has proven themselves within the organisation, why not give them the chance? It’s a win-win situation where we retain loyal employees within the business and they develop their skills, which makes them more marketable within the workplace.”

He says that there are even women within Maropeng who are keen to learn new maintenance skills. There are two ladies who are boat operators and maintenance is a key aspect of their job, making sure that this popular attraction at Maropeng is always in good working order! 

He describes his management style as “friendly but firm” and stresses that he works alongside his team, counselling them where necessary to ensure loyalty, productivity and a positive result for all concerned.

“One of the greatest lessons I learnt early on in my career is not to wait to be told what to do, but to take the initiative and teach myself and I try to pass this lesson on to the staff that report to me,” says Phillip. Another piece of advice he lives by and tries to pass on whenever he gets the opportunity is that people should never give up, to always stay true to who they are and they will find a way to deal with whatever needs to be addressed in their personal or professional lives.

“There was a butcher at the Carlton Hotel who once told me that the most important person in my life was me. If I focused on taking care of myself first, I would be able to take care of others around me. It’s something I’ve never forgotten and I have seen the value of that so much in my own life,” adds Phillip.

He is proud of Maropeng and the “small but vital role” he and his staff play and the highlight of his job is being creative in maintaining the equipment and facilities. “If we can modify and/or find a creative solution to repairing a piece of equipment and thus save money, we do it. Obviously, we replace where we need to, but it is gratifying to be able to find an alternative solution.”

He, in turn, teaches his staff to be creative and he feels the best person for a job in Maropeng’s maintenance sector is one who likes fixing things, is a self-starter, an innovative thinker and one who just gets “stuck in” and does a job that needs doing, even if it isn’t strictly within his/her job description.

It is obvious that Phillip cares about his staff and wants to see them succeed as much as they do. “When they have the intelligence, the drive and the knack for maintenance and repair, they can only go further and do well in their career,” he says.

In his personal life, Phillip is married to Busisiwe and has two grownup children – a son, Hope and an adopted daughter, Pamela. He is one of seven brothers and he says family is extremely important to him. He loves reading – “I will read anything I can lay my hands on!” – including books and magazines relating to his field and ones that can up his skills and improve on his knowledge. He also loves music and cooking, stating that his wife, while an excellent baker, says he cooks better than her.


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