The PPS Graduate Professional Index conducted among 400 South African engineers, indicated that only 4% of the respondents believe that the South African Government is effectively delivering on its promises on infrastructure spend. The survey was conducted by PPS, the financial services provider focused on graduate professionals.
According to Motshabi Nomvethe, Technical Marketing Specialist at PPS, 91% of the respondents indicated that they do not think that the Government will meet their infrastructure objectives as set out in the National Development Plan (NDP). In its NDP, the Government states that by 2030 key services such as commercial transport, energy, telecommunications and water has to be strengthened to ensure long term sustainability.
Commenting on the results Vaughan Rimbault, CEO of the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE), says that we need proactive collaboration between the Government and engineering professionals to counter these issues. "The Government is the biggest potential client for any engineering company, so when massive construction projects are rolled out it is vital that engineers with the right engineering skills are chosen to do these projects. Improved collaboration between the Government and engineering associations will facilitate communication and in turn encourage support from these professionals to have more faith in the Government's infrastructure expenditure."
Rimbault states that the Government also has a responsibility to employ local South African businesses to handle these big projects rather than employing skills from overseas. "There is an abundant of engineering talent in South Africa that should be given the opportunities to work with the State."
According to Nomvethe, it was however extremely positive to note that 64% of the respondents indicated that they will encourage their children to enter the engineering profession, with 51% stating that it is because the skills are really needed in South Africa.
When it comes to training of engineers, Rimbault also explains that it might be worthwhile to include a form of national services as part of the engineering degrees, as per the community service year that is a requirement of medical degrees. "Should a newly graduated engineer conduct a year's service with the Public Works department, they will obtain invaluable experience that can only be taught out in the field. A programme of this magnitude will ensure that all our young engineers enter the profession with a foundation of basic experience, which means they can then contribute in a business environment from day one."
When it comes to employment, Nomvethe notes that 36% of the survey respondents are concerned that unemployment in the country will encourage skilled professionals to work overseas.
Rimbault believes that engineers should consider moving into positions within the small and medium sized enterprises in South Africa as an alternative. "A small manufacturing company might need a professional to give input on their systems. Seasoned engineers will be able to contribute greatly to these type of businesses, which in turn will allow South African businesses to improve their revenue through improved systems."
"Every economy in the world needs as many skilled engineers as possible and universities can never over-produce engineering graduates. We have to encourage youngsters to study toward an engineering degree and to get relevant experience soon after they graduate," concludes Rimbault.