SAACE survey shows shortage of quality engineers

Posted On Monday, 10 May 2004 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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In its latest management information survey, the South African Association of Consulting Engineers (SAACE) highlighted that a large amount of the firms belonging to the association reported that they are struggling to obtain good-quality engineering staff.

Construction IndustryIn its latest management information survey, the South African Association of Consulting Engineers (SAACE) highlighted that a large amount of the firms belonging to the association reported that they are struggling to obtain good-quality engineering staff.

"It is easy to relegate this problem to the ‘national skills shortage’ bin, and not analyse the problem critically. As a matter of fact, the high number of problems reported and the pace at which it has been increasing is a concern for the industry and should urgently be examined, as the average age of professional civil engineers are already over 50," SAACE said.

Although the average age of engineers in the industry is not the problem per se, the industry could eventually find itself in a crisis where the capacity of the construction industry to develop new national infrastructure will be severely inhibited.

The survey showed that the number of new engineering entrants to the job market is at a low. SAACE has, for some time, been highlighting the fact that there is a shortage of black engineers (though the representative increase rate has been reassuring, thanks to various government and council initiatives).

However, this survey has shown that firms are now finding it equally hard to recruit engineers of any colour. This is partly because post-graduate qualifications among engineers have increased, but there have been a reduction in the number of Bachelors graduates. More strikingly, there has been a sharp decline in the number of graduates from the range of specialist technikon programmes, from BTech through to higher and national diplomas.

The decline in qualified technologists and technicians is particularly serious, as these staff members form vital elements of an overall engineering and industrial system

both already under-represented disciplines in the South African economy.

In less than a generation, South Africa may no longer have a skilled consulting engineering base capable of maintaining the current infrastructure, or of developing new infrastructure.

The survey showed that employment in the industry is down, with total employment in all firms falling. Less than half of the members surveyed felt they needed to employ engineering staff in the few months, and even less than that envisaged hiring technical staff. This trend may, in part, be ascribed to the inability of some South African firms to maintain a steady cash flow, due to the diversification of interests/projects into Africa.

The survey did, however, indicate that more firms are being driven to pay a premium to retain and attract staff. If the pool of skills remain small, a continuation of this trend should be seen.

This will impact on the long-term cost of civil development, as these salary trends will be reflected in the consulting rates charges by the various consultancies. With the strengthening rand and good economic growth, it is expected that the demand for excellent staff will increase further.

With recruitment difficulties and marginal capacity available, it is expected that unless some serious effort is made to recruit students to engineering, a slowdown in the industry's ability to deliver will be faced.

Engineering graduates, technologists and technicians, on the other hand, will have to focus on the long-term sustainability of their own employment in the industry, and re-evaluate their own salary expectations.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 16:01

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