President Zuma concludes a successful meeting with Black Professionals
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Countries that grow at a rapid economic rate generally have higher engineer to population ratios. This ratio also determines the success of a country’s infrastructure development programme - success as in extent and quality. Comparatively speaking, South Africa, as reported by Engineering News, has an engineer to population ratio that lags far behind developed and other developing countries. For example: China has one engineer to 130 citizens, Japan 1:314, Brazil 1:277 and South Africa 3:166. A closer look into the backlog shows that South Africa owes this disproportion to the apartheid past. As such, Africans and Coloureds have the fewest number of engineers relative to their population sizes. The NSBE is unhappy with this gap, even though the growth of engineering graduates has doubled over the past ten years from approximately 21000 to 43000. However, this growth is far from adequate and is not enough to meet South Africa’s need for these skills. The chorus of criticism levelled against the government for our lack of technical skills is growing louder and louder. Yet, no one points out the simple fact that the private sector, which used to play a bigger role than government in training engineers, technicians and artisans in the past, no longer does so. Private sector enthusiasm seems to have died a sudden death, and, while all fingers are pointing at government, we need to ask why? Is it a simple case of hypocrisy? There are fewer State Owned Companies (SOC's) in the country than there are private sector factories. In the past, these factories used to sponsor education and training, particularly of engineers, technicians and artisans. But, this is no longer the case, certainly not to the extent to which they did in the past. Unfortunately, this has negatively impacted the production of these much needed skills. Municipalities, elected to serve local communities, have recently seen a number of service delivery protests - protests against the lack of housing, electricity, fresh water supply and the failure to adequately treat and process waste water due to poor maintenance of equipment. The number of municipalities that are without engineers, and who will probably never have engineers, at least for the foreseeable future, will no doubt increase, given the shortage of these skills in the country. And, to exacerbate the problem, those engineers who are employed by municipalities are targeted and drawn away into higher paying jobs in private sector. Something has to be done to resolve this problem. This is why the NSBE (SA) is actively supporting the growth and development of engineers in this country and is treating this matter as a high priority. Furthermore, the NSBE wishes to partner anyone who supports this mission, with purpose.
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