Mining and exploration consultants SRK Consulting’s active skills development programme for graduate engineers and scientists aims to mitigate one of the consulting engineering industry’s biggest challenges – a lack of experience, says SRK MD Vis Reddy.
“Various factors in recent decades have caused a ‘missing middle’ in the country’s consulting engineering fraternity, resulting in a serious gap for engineers between 35 to 50 years. This cohort is valuable to the economy, as its members have between 13 and 18 years of experience.”
Reddy explains that SRK’s ‘Road to Registration’ programme for graduates enables them to achieve professional registration. Forty-seven young engineers and technologists are currently enrolled in this programme and the company will deliver that vital core of professionals with five to nine years of experience and the certification necessary to sign off on projects.
He tells Engineering News that this registration is key for the quality and sustainability of South Africa’s infrastructure because “it is the professional that has to take responsibility for the correct design, construction and commissioning of structures”.
Further, Reddy states that a key objective of the development initiatives of SRK Consulting is to transform the workplace in terms of diversity and employment equity.
“We are making good progress in advancing the careers of historically disadvantaged individuals while contributing to the development of the next generation of engineers and scientists. As a global group, we have the advantage of sharing the best practice in various disciplines between our offices from around the world.”
He adds that this helps the firm to build skills through knowledge exchange and mentoring, as SRK regularly holds specialist meetings, workshops and conferences among the company’s staff globally to share its leading expertise optimally.
SRK Consulting has worked closely with various authorities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
In terms of disaster management, the company has been developing sector mainstreaming guidelines for the SADC to help integrate disaster risk reduction interventions at regional and member State level.
“As disasters do not stop at the borders between our countries, this work promotes the institutionalisation of risk reduction between countries. Additionally, we have recently worked on a project with the SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI), which seeks to protect groundwater across the region. Our study highlighted key challenges facing Africa’s water resources, as well as the successes achieved to date by SADC-GMI,” explains Reddy.
He states that, for the past five years, the company has also been engaged by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to assist with the refurbishing and upgrading of the department’s wastewater treatment plants around Pretoria, in Gauteng. The project, which SRK helped design and supervise, has resulted in the work on a number of these facilities being completed.
Further, consulting engineers play a vital role in project design and planning to ensure that work is done correctly and to a high standard. This role is fundamental to keeping life-cycle costs of any project or structure to a minimum, he says.
Reddy notes that, at SRK, this means employing the right people for the job who have the appropriate expertise and experience. Being suitably equipped, SRK’s consulting engineers ensure that resources are not wasted through ‘reworking’ at a later stage.
“Perhaps the single greatest risk in any project is insufficient preparation, forethought and planning. Applying thorough and correct engineering processes is fundamental to mitigating risks. This disciplined approach highlights the myriad risks of today’s projects and guides the identification of the necessary mitigation measures,” he explains.
Risk Factor Mitigation
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have emerged as increasing risk areas in recent decades, he notes. SRK has assisted in helping clients identify and address their ESG impacts – optimising the positive impacts and mitigating any negative impacts on the biophysical or human environments while ensuring good governance.