Consulting engineering company MPA reports that it is focused on supporting engineering education through the projects it is involved in.
The company is currently participating in the yearly Job Shadow Day, which raises awareness of engineering education among school children. MPA reports that it has been involved in the Job Shadow initiative for the past three years.
The company’s presence at the 2010 Sci-Bono Engineering Week was successful and was used to target secondary school learners.
Further, MPA is in the process of establishing a support programme to promote science and mathematics at schools in rural areas.
“It is our hope that such initiatives will not only create awareness of engineering among young minds but, should teenagers from rural areas pursue a career in engineering, we hope they will go back to their communities to contribute towards local economic development,” says MPA CEO Malani Padayachee-Saman.
The support programme is a strategic initiative of the company and has been under construction for the past five months.
“The company, which invests about 1% of its yearly turnover in engineering education initiatives, plans to increase this amount in 2011,” she says.
MPA believes that effective transformation and skills devel- opment in the engineering sector should start at primary school level. Providing information on engineering at school level will lead to promising engineering candidates finding their way into the industry.
“In addition, for a student to excel in maths and science, it is imperative that both left and right brain development is encouraged in the formative years. “The reintroduction of arts and crafts at primary school level should be encouraged, as this acts as a stimulus for problem solving, lateral thinking and perceptive skills, which are of particular importance in the engineering sector,” she notes.
Meanwhile, MPA experiences significant challenges, including a lack of participation in large infrastructure projects owing to the size of the company and procurement processes that favour larger companies.
“We currently partner with various reputable large organisations in tackling larger projects. “This is a benefit to the company, as it allows for a continuous transfer of skills necessary to keep the company up to date with the latest trends in engineering. “Small practices do offer opportunities on the training front, where young professionals can work directly with experienced mentors,” she adds.
MPA is in the process of securing the services of four individuals who require in- service training as a development path towards registration in the civil engineering sector.
“These candidates will have the opportunity to secure permanent employment with MPA and, if successful and motivated, they will have an opportunity to climb the corporate ladder within the company,” she says.
Padayachee-Saman adds that it is also imperative to narrow the gap between tertiary institutions and industry requirements to achieve balance. “Feedback channels must be created to ensure that one does not create situations where the industry is hesitant to take on learners, because, for example, graduates need to spend about two years in training before they can make a meaningful contribution to the bottom line of the company,” she explains.
MPA also emphasises that more grants and funds must be made available for research and development in engineering education.
“To make a difference in dealing with engineering education in South Africa, role-players need to be more actively involved in promoting the sector and tackling the skills deficit,” Padayachee-Saman concludes.