The South African Institution of Civil Engineering's (Saice's) Young Members Panel chairperson Michael Mhlanga says young engineers are the future custodians of South Africa’s infrastructure and should be supported in their personal and professional development.
Continuous education, mentorship, and networking are key building blocks for young engineers to ensure they have the necessary skills and experience to overcome the challenges of the future, he says as South Africa commemorate Youth Day on June 16.
“This is a time to focus on youth empowerment, acknowledging the important role that our youth play in socioeconomic development. Young engineers have the opportunity to positively impact South Africa’s infrastructure development.
“Today’s youth have access to resources and technology that have the power to revolutionise the way infrastructure is conceptualised, designed, built and operated. They should be encouraged to use what is available to them, to create sustainable infrastructure projects for the future,” says Mhlanga.
These skills can also be applied to maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure to meet the needs of an increasingly urbanising country, he adds.
“As South Africa continues to urbanise and existing infrastructure continues to age, the role of young civil engineers in building a resilient future should not be underplayed. Every company, professional body and senior engineer can play a role in developing our young people by facilitating knowledge sharing, skills development, and networking,” comments Saice CEO Vishaal Lutchman.
“Many senior engineers realise that mentorship is vital at the early stage of one’s career. As a young engineer, the opportunity to talk to someone who has already walked the path is invaluable. Saice recently launched Saice Connect, which is a member online platform that helps to connect junior and senior engineers to encourage mentorship in the industry,” he states.
He urges young engineers to remember that learning does not end at graduation.
“Continuous professional development is vital after graduation to enable engineers to remain educated on new technologies, construction methods and materials, and to continue to enhance their training and skills.
"Joining a voluntary association, such as Saice, provides the youth with access to a variety of learning opportunities,” says Lutchman.
Saice proudly supports young engineers through a variety of membership options, which provide access to the wider benefits enjoyed by Saice members. Student membership is offered to civil engineering students, who can then remain members after graduation for a reduced fee.
“Our graduate membership was designed with the understanding that not every student is able to find employment immediately after graduating. Simultaneously, we know that being part of the Saice community is helpful for finding job opportunities, learning, and networking.
“We want to ensure that young engineers have access to these benefits without feeling financially constrained, and hence the graduate membership option was formed,” explains Mhlanga, who joined Saice as a student member in 2015.
The Saice Young Members Panel acts as a support function for young members of the institution and facilitates exposure to networking opportunities and technical talks from a variety of disciplines within the civil engineering industry. Additionally, young members gain access to social media groups that are used to share information on job opportunities, as well as provide a troubleshooting function for engineers needing help at work.
“When stuck on a problem at work, our young members interact on one of these groups to crowd-source a solution. This is the kind of thinking that will see a wide and positive contribution to infrastructure development. To have a focus group in the palm of your hand is helpful for decision-making and to gain wider perspectives from other professionals,” concludes Mhlanga.