The current state of Civil Engineering jobs in South Africa
The South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE) president, Errol Kerst (EK), talks to The Hard Hat Professional (THHP) about the current state of civil engineering jobs in the country.
THHP: How did we get to a situation where Civil Engineers are losing jobs and are struggling to find jobs?
EK: There are various factors, including political uncertainty, economic downturn, investor caution, industry restructuring and market and legislative conditions, that contribute to the difficult position the industry finds itself in.
THHP: Whose responsibility is it to remedy this situation?
EK: It requires a joint effort by all parties. The government must, however, ensure that conditions are conducive to economic growth.
THHP: How do we remedy the situation?
EK: With a joint effort, the economy must be freed up. A plan to ensure rapid project rollout must be drawn up so that in the short term the haemorrhaging can be stopped.
THHP: How will the stimulus and recovery plan help to change the situation?
EK: Any stimulus and recovery plan is useful in that it creates a feeling of hope and confidence in the population in general and the engineering community specifically.
THHP: How will the Presidential Investment Summit help?
EK: Any Summit can help – collectively we must figure out how to turn words into action in as short a time as possible.
THHP: How will this impact on the skills gap the industry is experiencing?
EK: We need to act quickly as the cohort of people who are now retiring will only be around in a willing and able state for another few years. As a country, we need to tap into this resource urgently.
THHP: Are we going to a have a major brain drain as a result?
EK: South Africa has already seen a brain drain in recent times. On a monthly basis, mainly young professionals are resigning because of emigration.
THHP: What is SAICE doing to soften the blow to its members?
EK: Unfortunately, there is not much that SAICE can do except to raise concerns and offer advice in the appropriate places.
THHP: How would you advise any Civil Engineer or Built Environment Professional affected by this situation?
EK: Our advice to young persons is to consider working anywhere where employment can be found for a few years so that you can add some experience to your CV. It is an ideal time to move around while you are young. It becomes a bit more problematic when there are young families involved.
THHP: Is there a light at the end of this dark tunnel?
EK: There is light at the end of the tunnel in that the new president with his new dawn agenda is doing the right things. Let’s hope that he can fast track things for the long-term good of the country.