According to the results of a new survey carried out in October, conducted by financial services company PPS, 43% of over 700 South African engineers feel that the current engineering degree does not train students sufficiently.
PPS head of group marketing and stakeholder relations Gerhard Joubert reports that the financial services provider, which is focused on graduate professionals, finds the results concerning. “These findings are in line with workforce solutions pro- vider Manpower Group South Africa’s Talent Shortage Survey of 2013, which revealed that engineering positions were the most difficult for companies to fill.”
A report conducted by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering on the engineering capacity requirements in sub-Saharan Africa also mirrors this result, attributing the notable levels of unemployment among engineering graduates to a lack of necessary skills and experience following graduation, particularly as a result of the lack of work experience as they only train once in the workplace.
The PPS survey also found that 82% of respondents feel that not enough is being done to attract new engineers to the profession. “This result is very high and is most likely a result of the persistent well-publicised skills shortage crisis facing the local engineering industry, rather than indicative of an actual lack of interest,” says Joubert.
According to South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE) CEO Vaughan Rimbault, there is a yearly oversubscription to the engineering study programme at tertiary level – in some cases by as much as 400%. “These results rather point to the need for more educational opportunities to be made available to aspiring engineers, which would ultimately assist in resolving the current skills shortage in the engineering profession,” he highlights.
Engineers play a vital role in implementing solutions to solve major issues, such as water availability, public transport, access to information and communication technologies, as well as energy security, says Joubert. “As a result, it is imperative that more opportunities to study towards becoming an engineer are made available to ensure the sustaina- bility and growth of the local economy.”
Respondents also revealed some concern about whether government is effectively delivering on its promised infrastructure spend with a confidence level of 41% being recorded, down seven percentage points year-on-year.
In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan stated that R827-billion will be drawn from the fiscus and state-owned enterprises to go towards South Africa’s infrastructure projects, which will take place over the next three years. “This is positive news given the fact that R642-billion was spent over the past three years,” says Joubert.
Eighty two per cent of respondents also cited confidence in the future of the profession in South Africa, with 74% of engineers saying they are confident they will remain in the country for the foreseeable future. “While these figure are both high, they have both dropped two percentage points year-on-year and should be watched closely,” says Joubert.
“The engineering profession is critical to the development of national and regional infrastructure and resultant economic growth.”