The rebuilding of damaged infrastructure, in KwaZulu-Natal, after the devastating floods, will be a good test for the consulting engineering sector’s capacity to supplement skills shortages, says consulting engineering and scientist firm SRK Consulting MD Vis Reddy.
The floods, which first hit KwaZulu-Natal in April before striking for a second time in May, caused infrastructure damage worth more than R25-billion.
These rebuilding projects will result in many engineering companies being hired to fix the infrastructure in the province.
Reddy notes that the projects will also provide many companies with an opportunity to gain the required skills and close the experience gap in the industry.
He highlights that South Africa’s consulting engineering fraternity faces a shortage of experienced professionals with more than 12 years’ experience.
Consequently, consulting engineers locally have not been able to fill the gap left by the experts who have left the sector.
“The South African economy is making it difficult for consulting engineers to fill the ‘middle level’ of professional experience. “Those engineers and scientists with ten to 15 years of experience are required to take on high levels of responsibility in complex and demanding projects . “We have not been able to fully close this gap fast enough, as the older and more experienced consultants retire and leave the sector.”
He, notes, however, that these projects will help to alleviate the challenges created by the shortage of public-sector projects that have been absent in recent years.
To mitigate the skills challenge, Reddy tells Engineering News that SRK has been actively nurturing young talent, using more experienced staff to mentor younger entrants.
“The mentoring programme has already put us in a stronger position than where we were just five years ago. “Another important strategy has been to use remote working as a way of making better use of our experts in other parts of SRK’s global network of offices. “They are able to offer their insights and services without necessarily being physically present in our local offices.”
He adds that the company’s long-term goal is to grow the skills base with initiatives such as its structured mentoring programme.
“We recently introduced a pilot programme based on the International Women in Mining mentorship scheme. This is focused on midtier staff who are likely to be the future leaders within the business. “SRK has a unique culture and this programme helps us to talk more about this internally, so that we pass this positive culture on to future leaders.”
Reddy says the company’s mentorship programme has assisted in improving the skills of younger engineers and scientists, who will make a valuable contribution to the engineering industry going forward.
The company has sourced experienced and skilled professionals locally within its network, with support from outside experts.
Reddy highlights those important partnerships have enabled SRK to deliver quality projects to clients, which have also contributed to their mentoring programme.