South Africa

Skills destruction at South African municipalities

South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) president Steven Kaplan has recently shared data revealing the tremendous skill destruction in South African cities and towns.

The South African Institution of Civil Engineering is a voluntary organisation with approximately 8,000 members.

It provides technical leadership in supporting and enhancing poverty alleviation, sustainable development, and the development and maintenance of infrastructure.

Kaplan said the most important thing to improve local service delivery and infrastructure is ensuring municipalities have the right people and skills.

The reality in South Africa is that local government has lost many qualified and experienced professionals over the last fifteen years.

Research by former SAICE president Dr Allyson Lawless showed that junior technicians had replaced senior engineers working in local government.

Her research showed that there had been a migration of skills, especially professional engineers, towards the private sector and global markets.

There has been a displacement of older, experienced engineers in municipalities between the ages of 45 and 60.

“In 2005, there was a balance between the senior engineers, technologists, and technicians at local government,” Kaplan said.

The situation changed dramatically over the last decade, with virtually no senior engineers left at municipalities.

The senior engineers were replaced by an abundance of new graduate technicians and technologists with no experience. Very few new engineers were employed.

“It means the young incoming graduates don’t have anyone in the workplace to provide structured mentorship programmes,” Kaplan said.

These programmes are essential for skills development and service delivery and guide new graduates to become productive professionals.

He said many municipalities don’t have a single registered professional engineer to guide the young graduates.

The charts below show how civil engineering practitioners’ age and qualifications in local government have changed over the last fifteen years.


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