Ninety-one per cent of South African engineers, surveyed in financial planning firm PPS’ Graduate Professional Index, do not believe that government will meet its infrastructure objectives as set out in the National Development Plan, it revealed on Tuesday.
The survey, conducted among 400 South African engineers, further indicated that only 4% of the respondents believe that government is effectively delivering on its promises on infrastructure spend.
To resolve the issue, South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering CEO Vaughan Rimbault said the country needed proactive collaboration between government and engineering professionals.
“Government is the biggest potential client for any engineering company, so when massive construction projects are rolled out it is vital that engineers with the right engineering skills are chosen to do these projects. Improved collaboration. . .will facilitate communication and in turn encourage support from these professionals to have more faith in government’s infrastructure expenditure,” he said.
Rimbault states that government also has a responsibility to employ local South African businesses to handle these big projects rather than employing skills from overseas. “There is an abundant of engineering talent in South Africa that should be given the opportunities to work with the State.”
Meanwhile, 64% of the respondents indicated that they will encourage their children to enter the engineering profession, with 51% stating that it is because the skills are needed in South Africa.
When it comes to training of engineers, Rimbault explained that it might be worthwhile to include a form of national services as part of the engineering degrees, as per the community service year that is a requirement of medical degrees. “Should a newly graduated engineer conduct a year’s service with the Public Works department, they will obtain invaluable experience that can only be taught out in the field.
“A programme of this magnitude will ensure that all our young engineers enter the profession with a foundation of basic experience, which means they can then contribute in a business environment from day one,” he highlighted.
Thirty-six per cent of survey respondents were concerned that unemployment in the country would encourage skilled professionals to work overseas.
Rimbault believes that engineers should consider moving into positions within the small- and medium-sized enterprises in South Africa as an alternative. “A small manufacturing company might need a professional to give input on their systems. Seasoned engineers will be able to contribute greatly to these type of businesses, which in turn will allow South African businesses to improve their revenue through improved systems.
“Every economy in the world needs as many skilled engineers as possible and universities can never over-produce engineering graduates. We have to encourage youngsters to study toward an engineering degree and to get relevant experience soon after they graduate,” said Rimbault.