Aug 19, 2011
Engineering registration holds competitiveness, service delivery promiseBack
Construction|Engineering|Africa|Design|Ecsa|Education|Health|Safety|System|Systems|Training|Africa|Service|Systems|University Of Cape Town
© Reuse this
ECSA president Chris Campbell says society relies on seasoned professionals to make planning, design and financial decisions and, if such decisions are made without input from competent engineers, the health and safety of workers and the public is compromised and the product’s effectiveness is affected.
The objective of professional registration is to give the public confidence in the competence of registered persons, says ECSA special consultant Professor Hu Hanrahan. ECSA registration endorses the engineer and also makes the recruitment process easier for employers, as they do not have to test for competence, adds Campbell.
To be eligible for registration, candidates must graduate from a university, or a university of technology with a degree or diploma before entering the candidacy stage, where they must complete a period of at least three years’ work in industry, acquiring appropriate experience. However, potential candidates are often not exposed to a broad enough range of engineering experience to be adequately competent and confident enough to register, says Campbell.
Ecsa faces several challenges in encouraging engineers to register, as well as in the limited number of candidates at the different points in the registration process. ECSA CEO Dr Oswald Franks says, as opposed to taking three years to acquire the necessary experience between graduating and applying, many candidates take between 7 and 15 years, which means they would be 30 years old, or older, before being able to register, which is suboptimal.
Franks reveals that, in late June, there were 34 680 engineering professionals registered with ECSA.
In 2008, South African universities collectively produced just under 8 000 graduates, having taken ten years to double from 4 000 graduates. Government is now calling for the number of graduates to increase to 15 000 by 2014, he says
University of Pretoria Department of Chemical Engineering professor and ECSA VP Thoko Majozi adds the Minister of Education has called for 4 500 Master of Engineering graduates by 2014. Currently, only 1 200 PhD graduates are produced across the board, with only 90 in engineering. Further, there are currently about 50 000 students enrolled in some form of engineering.
The intake and number of graduates from tertiary education need to be drastically improved. Franks says universities are generally at almost full capacity and cannot take on additional students. To increase the number of graduates, new institutions would need to be established, or the effi- ciency and success of higher education systems improved – he believes the latter is a better option.
In 2007, researchers at the University of Cape Town found that only 54% of gradu- ates enrolled in a four-year BSc engineering programme, typically offered at South African universities, graduate within five years and, after five years, just under 20% are still registered. Hence, at least 25% of the students that entered the course five years prior drop out by the fifth year of study.
The situation in universities of technology is worse, with 17% of students graduating from a three-year programme after five years and more than 50% of students dropping out after five years without having qualified. The national diploma course includes a two-year academic programme and one year in industry. Franks says the latter is sometimes a contributory factor to the poor statistics, as some students, having met their academic requirements, have difficulty finding employment in industry.
In the BSc course, the study found that white students succeed at a rate of 64% within five years and black students at 32%. In the national diploma, 28% of white students succeed and 16% of the remaining designated groups. ECSA believes this research is indicative of an underperforming public school system that does not prepare students adequately for success in higher education.
Hanrahan says, previously, there was a culture and strong practice of mentoring and transfer of verbal information from mentors to mentees, which needs to be continued through another communication channel. Hence, ECSA is working on more comprehensive guides for training and mentoring, which capture as much information as possible that would previously have been passed from mentor to mentee.
ECSA is also planning on hosting an engineering summit in September, with a key theme dealing with the challenges it faces in training its candidates for regis- tration.
The ‘Global Competitiveness Report 2010–2011’, released by the World Economic Forum, ranks South Africa at 75 out of 189 countries in terms of higher education and training, and at 137 in terms of the quality of its mathematics and science education. Majozi says this has implications for the future competitive edge of the country and it requires action. The country was ranked at 54 on the global competitiveness index.
Franks believes South Africa’s ratings in the report have declined in the past three to four years as a direct consequence of its lack of engineering skills. He says service delivery inefficiencies and protests partly arise because there are young, newly graduated and inexperienced engineers in municipalities without guidance or mentoring and, as result, service delivery is delayed or postponed. Hence, the country’s declining competitiveness, service delivery challenges and the lack of engineering skills are linked.
“To retain engineers in the industry and not lose them to industries such as service providers, construction and the financial sector, they must be appropriately remunerated, capacity at service delivery levels needs to be rebuilt, technical personnel must be appropriately qualified and trained and there needs to be succession planning,” concludes Campbell.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
Other News This Week News
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
While strongly welcoming the promulgation of the new Part 101 of South Africa’s civil aviation regulations, governing the commercial operation of civil remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) in South Africa, the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of Southern Africa...
LSM Distributors has contracted engineering consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa to undertake the R100-million restoration of the 54-year-old Kyalami racetrack, situated in Midrand. The restoration will assist in re-establishing it as a venue for...
South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has expressed the hope that the defence budget will be significantly increased over the next five years. She did so while addressing the media in her recent budget vote media briefing. The 2015/2016 defence...
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has been an implementing agency for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) since 2008. The relatively young portfolio has 28 projects over 30 countries on the continent according to the 2014 AfDB and GEF annual report released...
Investment in South African youth through apprenticeships and learnerships will not only create direct benefits for businesses but will also contribute significantly to job creation and socioeconomic transformation in the country.