PRETORIA – There was a huge attrition of engineers either leaving the industry to join the advisory and banking sectors or alternatively emigrating to other parts of the world, warns Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa).

Neresh Pather, the president of Cesa, said yesterday that this was largely due to the decreasing workload in engineering, which was driven directly through economic decline.

“It we are not able to provide more opportunities for professional consultancies, there will be fewer engineers being employed and in turn lower growth and succession in this sector.

“This will ultimately lead to the closing down of companies and over time there will be an erosion of current skills, which is clearly shown by the ageing profile of our industry,” he said.

Pather said the age profile of the industry when considering all categories of professionals revealed that a large number of engineers in the 60 age group were almost all at retirement age, while the age group between 44 and 56 was much smaller and the under-35 age group was huge.

He questioned whether the older group would have sufficient time to mentor and coach this group of young engineers. Pather added that the decline in the number of registered engineers was a worrying sign, because this was the main ingredient for Cesa’s skills development drive.

He said there was no reported evidence about the reasons for this decline but, regardless of the reasons, the drop in professionals should be addressed.

Pather added that the industry's latest statistics also showed an alarming picture in regard to transformation.

The 2018 annual report of the Engineering Council of South Africa revealed there were 17 226 registered professional engineers in the country, of which 80.7 percent or 13 903 were white, 11.5 percent or 1 985 were black, 6.7 percent or 1 144 were Asian, and 1.1 percent or 194 were coloured. 

Pather said despite all the efforts being made in promoting and encouraging greater numbers of black engineers to enter the industry, the numbers told a different story.

“This is a long-term plan that has to be supported over a much longer period. The results are not going to change overnight and the only requirement for us as an industry is to drive these programmes further.

“To do this, there needs to be much more work on offer for companies, thus allowing recruitment, training and development,” he said.

Pather said Cesa’s focus and objectives for 2019 were establishing trust between the private and public sector; building skills, capacity and competence; ownership and accountability through activism, volunteerism and values; value for money, resilience and sustainability; fostering healthy relationships with all stakeholders in the industry; and changing social norms and creating a “new normal by doing what is right”.

He said Cesa’s immediate actions for working with the government would include addressing the technical competence in government departments.

Other actions included helping the government to draw up the best procurement policies that achieved the correct level of delivery in infrastructure and working with government bodies to increase the planning needed for a healthy consistent pipeline of work to build this sector of the economy, he said.

BUSINESS REPORT