The concept of NSBE was conceived in 1995 by a group of students at the then University of Natal (later renamed to University of KwaZulu Natal). The biggest concern then amongst those students was the high number of Black Students who were registering for the Engineering degree, but for different reasons, were forced to leave the University without having achieved graduation.
The students developed various support programs geared towards reducing this failure rate. One of the programs was a Sunday afternoon networking session wherein a speaker (usually a working engineer) will be invited to come and share with the students their stories and experiences.
In 1998 the National Society of Black Engineers was officially registered and launched as a representative body of all black engineers in South Africa. Since then the organisation has embarked on various campaigns to catapult the status of black engineers in the country. Central to these campaigns have been the concept of Transformation!
Whether it is challenging the slow demographics changes in corporate companies in South Africa, whether it is questioning companies unwillingness to use the services of small and medium size companies(SMMEs) owned and manged by black engineers, whether it is addressing government incapacity to provide sufficient enforcement for Employment Equity Policy, whether it is taking on the old guard of discipline specific engineering institutions and societies – calling them to reflect the racial demographics of the country in their structures, NSBE has been there!
The major structural changes that have been seen in the Engineering Council of South Africa can directly be attributed to NSBE interventions. Above all, NSBE has continuously embarked on community outreach programs promoting engineering as a career to the township and rural schools.
The organisation has since grown in leaps and bounds and today enjoys the respect of other national black organisation formations, corporate sector and even government. NSBE will continue advocating for the welfare of black engineers as long as the vision is has not been achieved: “the meaningful of Black engineers in the mainstream economy of South Africa”.