Engineering consultancy Hatch Africa says resolving the skills shortage in the engineering sector in Africa requires proactive initiatives by the private sector, but also input and assistance from government.
“South Africa’s entire education and youth development system needs to be reviewed again. That is why Hatch has committed to skills development through our in-house programmes and why we encourage other firms to also lend a hand,” says Hatch Africa executive director Tshepo Kgobe.
The company says it feels strongly about engineering and technical skills development. It currently provides financial assistance for a programme called Siyakhula, which aims to facilitate maths and science education and introduce the engineering and built environment faculty to high school learners in the Ivory Park area, in Gauteng.
Siyakhula is an addition to another Hatch programme, the Naletsana Schools Development programme, which mentors and prepares learners from secondary level education all the way through to tertiary level. This programme is run by a Hatch employee, who was previously a beneficiary of the programme.
The engineering consultancy says it has achieved phenomenal results with the skills development that it has implemented. “Through our programme, we have been able to attract and select brilliant students, whom we then award bursaries and later employ,” says Kgobe.
Further, he points out that learners who previously obtained averages of about 40% for their studies, now achieved averages of about 70%, following their involvement in the skills development programme.
Hatch aims to create civil, industrial, mechanical, electrical and chemcial engineers, geology and mining professionals and various other project professionals by focusing its efforts on the development of Grade 9 pupils, matric assistance programme learners and university students through the various schools development programmes.
The company says it has introduced an additional level to the programme for learners who do not meet university entrance requirements, but who show potential, by facilitating students’ enrol-ment at further education and training colleges and technical universities.
Kgobe says the company provides bursaries for the students to remove the financial burden and enable them to focus on their studies.
Further, in response to reports suggesting that a high first-year drop-out rate is the result of previously disadvantaged learners not adapting to the university environment, Hatch says its programme covers multiple key areas to assist students with such difficulties.
The programmes cover, but are not limited to, English language skills and socialisation, interpersonal skills and adapting to the university environment.
Meanwhile, another initiative Hatch Africa is a part of, in its efforts to promote skills development, is the sponsorship of draughting and design school African Academy. The consultancy company says it provides the academy with funding of R1-million a year that goes towards the sponsoring of underprivileged students.
Further, Hatch says gaining practical experience is essential for engineers in training and those who have recently graduated. The necessary practical knowledge and experience facilitate access to better employment opportunities.
To accommodate this, the company sends students to project sites with experienced engineers.
Hatch says it is developing a programme that will enable draughtspeople from the African Academy to also acquire artisan skills. Some students are more than com-petent in drawing, but lack engineering skills.
“To bridge this gap, we are considering creating a programme that will combine drafting and artisan courses,” explains Kgobe.
He says skills development and training in the engineering sector will lower the high prices charged for the provision of services by engineers and, as a result, grow the sector.
“Service providers are able to charge higher prices because of the short supply of qualified engineers,” he concludes.