Engineering News recently reported that only 105 000 out of 496 000 of last year’s matriculants are able to pursue studies in engineering due to poor results in their final examinations.
Marna Thompson from the Department of Basic Education confirmed that the number of matriculants who have written and passed mathematics have declined steadily since 2008. This leaves South Africa, each year, with an even greater shortfall on skills development opportunities for companies looking to fill learnership programmes and apprenticeships.
The Engineering Council of South Africa recently launched a national initiative to improve the current skills shortage in engineering, in line with the government’s plan to develop 30 000 engineers by 2014. South Africa has a considerable deficiency of trained engineers, each engineer serving around 3 000 people, as opposed to 227 in Brazil and 543 in Malaysia.
According to the North West University, however, South Africa needs at least 25 000 engineering graduates per year in order for the country to be economically competitive. These alarming figures of skills shortages in our country have moved the North West University to open a new engineering faculty of 18 000m² which can host 1 200 students in an attempt to produce a larger number of engineering graduates each year. In light of the poor matric results, this initiative may be in vain as there are fewer students demonstrating a capacity to qualify for engineering studies each year.
Skills shortages do not only hamper South Africa’s infrastructure capacities and other developments, but also poses an increased risk to insurance companies providing professional indemnity insurance to the engineering industry. Insurance companies may see an increase in liability claims against professional engineers in the years to come if more is not done to promote the engineering profession under young South Africans.
AM Theron Incorporated specialises in the fields of Insurance- and Engineering Law and keeps up to date with the latest developments.