ALLYSON LAWLESS Employers are mistaken in unrealistically expecting graduates to design and manage processes, projects and systems from their first day at work
Organisations need to play a more active role in developing engineering capacity in South Africa, as new regulations are in place to provide available funding for graduate training, says South African Institution of Civil Engineering (Saice) capacity building arm Civils Masakheni MD Allyson Lawless.
“This has been achieved, owing to years of campaigning by civil engineering body Saice and professional engineering regulation statutory body the Engineering Council of South Africa – the development of graduates towards professional registration has now been recognised as an important training phase for engineers and many professionals.”
Lawless emphasises the importance of the regulation definition of the candidacy phase, which refers to a period of workplace-based learning undertaken by a graduate as part of the requirement for registration as a professional in the required professional designation as stipulated by a professional body.
Regulations catering for this phase have been included in the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Workplace-Based Learning Programme Regulations – in Government Gazette 42037 of November 16, 2018 – which came into effect on April 1 this year.
These regulations enable sector education and training authorities to make funding available for mentoring, training and development during the candidacy phase so candidates can be exposed to vital experiences. Candidates should also be offered supplementary training and reviews of progress on a regular basis.
“The publication of these regulations signals a turning point for the early development of graduates, as organisations should have no excuse about the cost of early years of employing graduates,” enthuses Lawless.
The recognition of candidacy has also been implemented in category C in the Skills Matrix defined in the Department of Trade and Industry’s amended Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Codes of Good Practice.
This rewards companies points if they develop candidates towards professional registration.
The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Standard for Developing Skills through Infrastructure Projects – in Government Gazette 36760 of August 23, 2013 – also recognises candidate training.
“The public sector is encouraged to include this standard in all tenders to ensure that training takes place on projects funded by the fiscus. This calls for mentoring, adequate supervision, the development of training plans and regular reviews.”
Lawless emphasises the challenges public-sector graduates face in developing the necessary competencies for professional registration, owing to the most important engineering problem-solving, design and project management being outsourced.
However, clause 3.1.3 in the CIDB training standard enables public-sector employers to call for their own candidates to be placed with service providers to receive the required design, contracting or any other experience, she adds.
“The public sector needs to embrace these training opportunities to grow their engineering leaders of tomorrow.”
These new regulations mean that there are few reasons for private and public sector organisations to justify not hiring more young candidate engineers, says Lawless.
“There is no need to increase the number of graduates, but rather the number of experienced personnel. We have come to this because of the demise of formal graduate training programmes that were in place in organisations and public-sector structures before the days of outsourcing and unbundling.”
The negative state of the South African economy has also aggravated this struggle to find employment, suggests Lawless.
She claims that many organisations and businesses in the civil engineering, manufacturing or mining sectors expect engineering graduates to be fully competent in designing and managing processes, projects and systems without their having gained the necessary experience.
“This is simply not realistic. Attaining an engineering qualification is only the theoretical beginning of a long journey. Graduates can learn only by experience how to apply the theory, solve problems and manage increasingly complex engineering activities.”
Lawless emphasises Saice’s long- standing advocacy of candidacy phase support. The institution, together with Civils Masakheni, has placed a significant focus on capacity building.
Included in the institution’s support programmes are speed-mentoring and mentoring days – both of which are part of the Kickstart your career programme. This programme offers support to young graduates from more experienced engineers.