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Dec 09, 2011

Engineering firm seeks to bridge education-workplace divide

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Consulting engineering group Hatch Africa has developed and implemented a number of skills development initiatives with the aim of guiding, mentoring and training students.

The idea is to assist students to bridge the gap between secondary school, tertiary education and the working environment.

Hatch Africa director Tshepo Kgobe says a critical area of skills development for the engineering and construction industries, and one that is often ignored, is secondary institutions. “It is during grade 10 that many students interested in entering the engineering and construction industries are unable to do so because they have made the wrong subject choices, most common of which is not choosing to study mathematics and science at higher grade,” explains Kgobe.

Hatch Africa’s Motheo high schools assistance programme is intended to target students in grades 10, 11 and 12 that are interested in the engineering profession but that are struggling with their grades.

Kgobe points out that Motheo is a Tswana word which means ‘foundation’. “It is by building a solid base in mathematics and science that students are afforded the chance to pursue a career in engineering,” he explains.

Through tutoring and guidance, Hatch’s Motheo programme aims to assist each student enrolled in the programme in achieving the grades required for entry into tertiary institutions. With regard to the transition from high school to a tertiary institution, the Motheo programme aims to prepare each student for the demands of the further education and training (FET) colleges, technikons and universities.

“It has been reported that a large percentage of students that cancel their studies in their first year do so because they are not fully prepared for or have never been exposed to what is required of them by the technikon, FET or university. The Motheo programme ensures that all students entering tertiary institutions have been exposed to systems that are common in most high schools, such as libraries and chemistry laboratories and having a good command of the English language,” explains Kgobe.

In addition to providing bursaries to promising students from the matric assistance programme, a branch of the Motheo programme, Hatch Africa provides bursaries each year to about 40 students at the African Academy – an educational institute for draughtspeople.

“Draughtspeople are a key element in each and every architectural, engineering and construction project commissioned in the country. As South Africa only produces a small number of the draughtspeople that are required each year, initiatives, such as the partnership between African Academy and Hatch, are paramount,” explains Kgobe.

Each year, Hatch selects ten African Academy bursary students for in-service training, which is carried out at the Hatch offices and gives the bursars an opportunity to work in any one of Hatch’s various divisions. From the pool of bursary students, the top performers, who are interested in furthering their studies, receive bursaries for university studies from Hatch. In addition to covering the cost of the student’s studies, accommodation, food and a stipend are also provided for by Hatch.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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