CESA transforms the engineering sector in South Africa

written by Ntsako Mbhokota.

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”-CESA Transforms the Engineering sector in SA.

Through a Business Consulting Engineering (BCE) programme, CESA is leading the way in transforming the Engineering sector in South Africa. The BCE programme is established to offer a specialised training in consulting engineering which allows one to deal effectively with all aspects of the complex and competitive world of commercial business.    

 “Our people are our best asset” has become a business cliché, but this holds true in Consulting Engineering.  Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA), and in particular the School of Consulting Engineering (SCE), has a desire to realise transformation in our country and in our industry.  One way of achieving this is through skills development, education and training.

In South Africa today, there is only 1 engineer for every 3100 people.  Germany boasts 1 engineer for every 200 people and in Japan, UK and USA; the ratio is 1:310.  The industry’s challenge today is two-fold. It needs to not only reduce the ratio, but also to increase the competency of our young engineers in order to render more efficient delivery.” –says Brenda Lacey Smith, Manager of the BCE school.”

The shortage of skills in the engineering sector in South Africa is something that cannot be ignored anymore, compared to other developing South Africa ranks the lowest as you can see the statistics.
“There is a clear need for transformation in our industry, even though the June 2011 CESA Bi-Annual Economic and Capacity (BEC) Survey indicates an improvement from increase from 21,2% to 27,8% of black (including Asian and Coloured) equity. This includes executive directors, non-executive directors, members and partners. This indicates a positive improvement in the contribution of black people (including Asian and Coloured) that have obtained some sort of ownership or equity in the firm for which the work, but they still remain in the minority. For a detailed breakdown by race and gender you can refer to the CESA BEC Survey on www.cesa.co.za / Bi-Annual Economic and Capacity Report | Consulting Engineers South Africa.” Explains Brenda Smith.

“Every bit of information imparted in the BCE Course has proved to be beneficial and valuable to me.  It covers all aspects of engineering especially project delivery, i.e. from inception to implementation to handover.  I feel more “educated” when I now attend meetings and I am equipped to asking the right questions to prevent any ambiguity.” Remarks Samantha Naidoo one of the BCE students.

Interview with TSA (Transform SA)

1. For how long does the programme run and who is it aimed at?

It’s modular by nature with three one-week block weeks, and runs over one year. The modules include three business subjects, such as Consulting Engineering Environment, Finance and Law and one core Project Delivery subject. Students are required to complete one or two assignments per week between block weeks (12/14 weeks). The assignments are work related and therefore benefit both the employer and the students.  A Portfolio of Evidence will be submitted and a final exam will be written at the end of the year.

2. Who is it aimed at?

The programme is aimed at consulting engineering firms’ staff with either, a BSc/BTech degree with a minimum two years’ experience, or with a Technical Diploma or a relevant non-engineering tertiary education (eg finance, legal, or human resources) with a minimum three years’ experience in a consulting engineering environment.

3. “It’s better to teach one how to catch a fish rather than giving them one” this is the philosophy which you use to drive the programme, please explain to us what the teaching behind it is.

Engineering students generally only get taught technical skills at tertiary institutions and not business skills; however, when they get into the world of work they are expected to have these skills instinctively based on the fact that they have a tertiary education, which most of the time is not the case.

Participating in the Business of Consulting Engineering Development Programme lays a solid foundation, prepares students to develop workplace competencies, and also gives them the opportunity to take charge of their own career development.

4. Looking at the engineering sector, in terms of its growth, how would you rate South Africa on a scale of 10?
Firms within the consulting industry at the moment are generally running at some 80% capacity and eagerly await governments promised infrastructure roll-out so essential in growing and developing the industry.

5. CESA is doing very well in trying to transform the engineering sector in South Africa, what is the most exciting thing about running the BCE programme and also what challenges are you faced with?

After the running two of the three block weeks and the students submitting one or two assignments a week (±12/14 weeks), which is incredibly gruelling, 100% of the students said that they would definitely recommend the programme. This is immensely exciting and is a huge accolade for the SCE, and has made the 2 years of development of the BCE incredibly worthwhile.
Growing and developing the BCE has been more of a huge learning curve for the Programme Developers and the Subject Experts. As this is the first time that such a development programme has been developed and run in the world, most of the training material has had to be developed from scratch. As such, the challenges have become opportunities and CESA has been very fortunately to have the support and dedication of all involved.

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