Consulting engineering firm GIBB Group says the Thusano Learnership Programme, which it funds, is producing excellent results.
Schools nationwide are participating in the programme.
The programme, which was established in 2005 by a civil engineering technician, Mthetheli Peter, aims to improve high school learners’ mathematics and science skills. In addition, it also introduces disadvantaged learners to the engineering profession and improves their chances of success in industry.
“It is well known that the engineering industry has a serious skills shortage, which the poor results achieved in mathematics and science at school level contributes to. An investment of this nature at school level contributes to the establishment of a pipeline of talent for wider industry and if we are successful in raising the interest for the engineering profession, also the engineering industry,” says GIBB human resources executive Philip Barnard.
Additional classes and mentoring opportunities are provided for learners at schools. Staff members conduct the programme and provide the facilitators. The programme improves learners’ skills levels and, in turn, their chances of progressing to tertiary education.
Further, exposing the learners to the engineering field at an early age, combined with improved results in the subjects, improves their chances for acquiring bursaries for tertiary education.
As an example of the success of the programme, Barnard cites two schools in the Eastern Cape that significantly improved their matric results last year.
Vuluhlanga Senior Secondary School was third in the Butterworth district ratings, after improving its matric pass rate from 54% in 2010 to 82% in 2011. Of the 39 learners who wrote their grade 12 examination, 32 passed. The Amabele Senior Secondary School improved its pass rate to 73.9% in 2011, compared with 48% in 2010.
Meanwhile, the firm also contributes to skills development by offering learners job shadow- ing opportunities as part of Consulting Engineers South Africa’s (Cesa’s) yearly Job Shadow Day initiative, which aims to provide learners first-hand experience of the industry. The firm recently received the 2012 Cesa Job Shadow Day Award.
To ensure the success of the initiative, a selection of dedicated professionals from various engineering disciplines mentor learners for a day and inform them of the various engineering disciplines, as well as the projects that Gibb is busy with.
“Learners are given motivational talks and are exposed to certain life skills. This is also supported by a number of videos we have developed, that are shown to learners. We take learners on site to expose them to engineering in practice and this raises their interest in our industry,” Barnard says.