Categorized | CSI, Skills development

SMEC engineers Soweto community empowerment



SMEC South Africa is providing on-site training for its graduate engineers, as well as helping to build much-needed infrastructure for local communities, through its involvement with the Growing Up Africa initiative in Devland, Soweto.

A Non-Government Organisation (NGO) established by entrepreneur Deborah Terhune, Growing Up Africa engages local companies to become involved in its various projects. “The model is not to receive donations and funds, but to acquire skills, expertise and materials in order to be able to meet the real needs of local communities,” SMEC South Africa Head of Group HR, Tumelo Molope, comments.

As a broad-based consultancy specialising in engineering, construction and infrastructure development, SMEC South Africa sought to focus on “one impactful initiative” as opposed to becoming involved in a plethora of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

“This is where Growing Up Africa comes into its own,” Molope points out. The NGO identified the need for a community centre in Devland, Soweto that would also double as an education and training facility.

A qualified structural engineer from SMEC South Africa, in addition to various graduate engineers on bursary programmes sponsored by the consultancy, became involved with the design process of the community centre.

“We also provided skills and expertise during the construction process itself. In addition, our graduate engineers were able to upgrade various homes in the area with materials leftover from the community centre project.

“This provided them with invaluable experience in interacting with the local community and their specific requirements and circumstances. A lot of our graduates hail from similar areas, so it is particular gratifying for them to be able to give back to the local community in such a fashion,” Molope elaborates.

She adds it is essential for student engineers to gain on-site work experience as it gives them insight into how their skills and expertise can benefit local communities. “Our graduate engineers learn to grow and think on a new level by having to deal with real-world practicalities.

“In this way the initiative is mutually beneficial for all involved, as it is not only a great platform for educating graduate engineers, but it also provides a platform for local communities such as Devland to leverage much-needed infrastructure development,” Molope explains.

Smec South Africa-head of group-HR,Tumelo-Molope

Smec South Africa-head of group-HR,Tumelo-Molope

Through its SMEC Foundation, the consultancy has tackled a range of CSR initiatives to date, including such flagship projects as renovating the Tirisano-Mmogo Primary School for the SA Medical & Education (SAME) Foundation.

“We built a computer centre and classroom, along with library renovations and a completely-renovated block of boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, all achieved through corporate sponsorships,” Molope highlights.

Major SMEC South Africa CSR initiatives

 Bright Start: Funded by SMEC South Africa’s Cape Town branch, Bright Start is an educational support programme running since 2008. Based in Hout Bay, it provides educational sponsorships underpinned by a support and mentorship programme.

 The Singakwenza Ndawonye Training Scheme: SMEC South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal office has partnered with the Singakwenza Ndawonye Training Scheme since 2004 to offer workplace-integrated learning to civil engineering students from poor backgrounds to meet their experiential training requirements. The goal is to provide 60 students with life skills training annually.

 The Zevenfontein Education Fund: SMEC South Africa’s Johannesburg office has formed close ties with the Zevenfontein Education Fund to help stabilise the lives of two young learners whose home circumstances put them at risk of being unable to attend school regularly. These learners have been supported by the fund since 2012.

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