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Built environment digital transformation needs education, training collaboration

CESA president David Leukes speaks about digital and automation technologies in engineering. Video and editing: Shadwyn Dickinson

1st February 2024

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The digital and automation transformation taking place in the engineering disciplines means that it is essential for the local industry to invest in education and training to equip the workforce with the skills needed in the digital era, said industry organisation Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) president David Leukes.

This is necessary for the local industry to keep pace with the global technological landscape, he said during a February 1 media briefing.

"Our local industry must embrace innovation, and the integration of digital technologies and automation is an imperative for survival and success."

However, the transformation is not about adopting new technologies, but fundamentally reshaping the way we design, build and maintain infrastructure, he emphasised.

Additionally, collaboration between government and the private sector is essential for South Africa to deliver projects more quickly, improve resource allocation and enhance overall project outcomes.

It is crucial to translate policy into action. Implementing initiatives and leveraging the skills present in the private sector is essential, he said.

"Mindful of the challenges we face as a country, this is an election year and likely a watershed year. We need to seize the opportunity to build back better in all aspects that impact on society," Leukes said.

Further, it is urgent to address the infrastructure backlog in South Africa, which presents further opportunities for job creation, economic stimulation and improved levels of service related to such infrastructure provisioning.

"Addressing the infrastructure backlog in South Africa is fundamental to meeting the needs of a growing population and must be cognisant of the realities experienced owing to climate change," he added.

Meanwhile, Cesa facilitates, through its member companies, training and job exposure for, especially, younger public-sector practitioners to enable them to be more effective and efficient at their jobs.

"This mentorship and exposure to project processes that we provide through our members is not leveraged to its fullest and government entities continue to struggle with mentorship for their practitioners," he highlighted.

Cesa appeals to government to implement policies and use the skills in the private sector, and this requires a robust procurement regulatory framework that ensures quality outcomes and safeguards against inefficiencies.

Such a framework must prioritise transparency, fair competition and adherence to industry standards, Leukes asserted.

"Not only the cost, but the long-term impact and sustainability of proposed projects must be part of the evaluation process. A fair and accountable procurement process ensures value for money, raises the overall quality of infrastructure outcomes and safeguards against corruption," he added.

Cesa is also committed to leaving no one behind, and collaboration with other sectors can enable the country to address the infrastructure backlogs and improve living conditions.

"Prioritising an inclusive approach to infrastructure development is essential. Well-planned and executed infrastructure projects are transformative in uplifting communities and driving economic progress," he emphasised.

"Our goal is to foster collaboration between government bodies and the private sector to ensure successful planning, implementation and completion of all infrastructure projects, and thereby contributing to the sustainable development of our nation.

"Infrastructure has a profound influence on the lives of citizens and shapes their opportunities and quality of life. This realisation lends a sense of urgency and determination," Leukes concluded.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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