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Archive for March, 2008

Out-of-the-box thinking is necessary to combat the engineering skills shortage and prevent a breakdown of South Africa’s infrastructure, said newly elected South African Association of Consulting Engineers (SAACE) president, Felix Fongoqa, at the association’s annual breakfast.

Fongoga informed those present that South Africa’s rapidly expanding economy had placed young engineers under incredible pressure, with many of them having to single-handedly run multi-million rand projects with little or no mentorship.

He added that the engineering skills shortage may ultimately lead to a crisis affecting our ability to refurbish, maintain and develop infrastructure. And without infrastructure development such as stadiums, transport systems, roads, harbours and airports there will not be a 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The skills shortage has been exacerbated by South Africa’s expanding economy and the intensity of current infrastructure development – R482-billion has budgeted for infrastructure expenditure over the next three years. True, this economic pressure may lessen slightly as the international financial crisis and the country’s power woes have their impact, but not enough to alleviate our skills requirements.

The county’s engineering capacity utilisation is already running at close to 100% and member firms of the SAACE are experiencing difficulty sourcing skills in all categories including engineers, technologists and technicians, whether in the previously disadvantaged category or not.

Unfortunately the same pressures are being felt in the surveying and GIS sectors.

Gavin Lloyd, president of SAGI, states in this issue that the twin engines of land reform and infrastructure investment are keeping the surveying sector very busy. He anticipates growth in this sector coming it at 6% as opposed to predictions of 3 to 4% for the general economy.

The SAACE believes that, apart from specialist skills, South Africa has the human capital available and that South Africans should benefit from the increased job opportunities that are developing.

Through their Young Professionals Forum (YPF), the SAACE has created a platform to facilitate the mentoring of young professionals and has put processes in place to attract young people into the profession.During 2007 members of the YPF made presentations to over 2000 learners at the Sci-Bono Centre in Newtown as well as to 100 of the country’s top learners. In addition annualised contributions to bursaries and training from the SAACE’s 470 member firms amounted to around R96-million.

Last year the SAACE School of Consulting Engineering was restructured and the 2008 continuing professional development accredited training programme now provides cost-effective training with the goal of building a resource of holistic engineers and consulting engineers for South Africa.

I think we all need to take a leaf out of the SAACE’s book and do our best to promote homegrown skills.

 

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