The year-long Business of Consulting Engineering (BCE) management development programme – offered by industry body Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) – is aimed at producing future leaders of the consulting engineering industry, says Cesa CEO Chris Campbell.
He notes that, within the corporate community, there is talk about the importance of ‘accelerated development’, but that there seems to be little done in terms of instituting developmental programmes or processes.
He states that the BCE programme – first offered in 2012 – is a deliberate intervention to address the need for accelerated development and, moreover, asks the question “how do we take a technically grounded person and turn them into a leader within their profession?”
Campbell states that the course was constructed in consultation with Cesa member companies. He notes that the founders of the programme observed that, while engineers and technicians had the technical acumen, they were often ill-equipped in terms of managing a business.
Campbell explains that the primary objective of the BCE programme is to equip technically minded individuals with the ‘nontechnical skills’ that do not typically form part of an engineering degree or diploma. Moreover, it strives to ensure that participants develop a body of business knowledge and skills, without having to expend resources on a formal business qualification.
The BCE programme comprises four modules covering key aspects of the consulting engineering business environment, namely consulting engineering environment (CEE), finance, law and project delivery.
“The CEE module covers subjects such as the economics of consulting engineering, ethics, problem solving, time management and communication. The finance module looks to instill some basic accounting skills, covering topics such as inflation, budgeting, financial reporting and the like.”
He adds that the law module focuses on a basic understating of South African law, particularly contract law, as well as touching on legislative requirements for procurement and employer obligations. Finally, project delivery goes through the delivery process, project planning and scheduling, as well as managing changes that occur during this delivery process.
Requirements for acceptance into the BCE programme are a BSc or a BTech degree with a minimum of two years’ experience in a Cesa member company or an equivalent working environment; or a technical diploma with a minimum of five years’ experience in a Cesa member company or equivalent working environment. He notes that, while all applicants will be considered, Cesa has found that participants who did not meet the requirements struggled to complete the course.
“If you left it to chance, and an individual was curious or pushed by somebody into a leadership role, they may, in about ten years, develop these types of skills on their own. However, through this programme, they could learn these skills in year four or five of their career,” he states.
The programme fosters individual growth with the idea that the graduates will grow more rapidly into a leadership role or function, possibly becoming future heads of their firms, “with some so bold as to start their own consulting engineering companies”.
Space on the BCE programme is limited to 25 students a year, in order to create an interactive, niche and focused learning environment. There are three contact sessions over the course of the year, with monthly assignments and an end-of-year examination. “Registration for the 2018 BCE is open and spaces are filling up,” adds Campbell.
He boasts that the lecturers are expert practitioners within their field and are often directly involved within the consulting engineering space, although Cesa does employ subject matter experts for topics outside the industry.
Campbell concludes, “the Cesa School of Consulting Engineering offers an array of courses, generally to a mixed audience and individuals from nonmember companies are welcome to attend”.