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Jun 18, 2012

Engineers confident of their future but skills a concern

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Despite a number of initiatives aimed at dealing with the critical skills shortage in South Africa, a survey found that engineering professionals did not believe this was sufficient and remained concerned about the skills shortages in their relevant professions.

The quarterly survey, undertaken by financial services company PPS, reported that only 40% of the 800 South African engineers surveyed were confident that the government would adequately deal with current skills shortages in the short to medium term.

“The skills shortage in South Africa across a number of critical professions has been widely discussed, and initiatives have been put in place to address the issue, so it is concerning that engineers do not believe that these will be sufficient,” said PPS head of group marketing and stakeholder relations Gerhard Joubert.

The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) earlier pointed to a “severely underengineered” country, with 2005 figures indicating that there was one engineer for every 3 166 people in South Africa, compared with one for every 455 people in Australia, one for every 227 people in Brazil and one for every 311 people in the UK.

The South African government aimed to develop 30 000 engineers by 2014. The Department of Higher Education and Training also indicated its hopes of increasing South Africa’s engineering graduate output from 7 888 in 2008, to 15 000 students a year by 2014.

Just over 40% of the PPS survey respondents were confident that the current education system provided the necessary skills for the creation of potential engineers. Only 44% were confident that the standard of education would improve over the next five years.

The survey indicated that only 48% of the respondents believed that the government was able to deliver on its proposed R800-billion infrastructure promise.

While engineers participating in the survey were concerned about the challenges surrounding their industry, 84% were confident of the future of their profession over the next five years, and 74% of engineers would encourage their children to enter the profession.

Joubert commented that engineers also gave a confidence level of 76% on whether they would remain in South Africa for the foreseeable future, but only 41% were confident that unemployment would improve over the next five years.

South African Institute of Civil Engineering CEO Manglin Pillay told Engineering News, in April, that a lack of sustainable project work left many skilled engineers jobless and exploring international job opportunities.

ECSA claimed that between 15 000 to 20 000 South African engineering professionals were working outside South Africa, compared with a total local registry of 38 000 professionals.

About 70% of the surveyed engineers believed that their profession could maintain ethical business standards.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
Creamer Media Senior Researcher and Deputy Editor Online
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