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Stop producing Engineers………?

Posted By Chris Reay, Monday, 15 December 2014

It has often been raised that we should limit the supply of Engineers to the market in order to increase the remuneration levels through normal supply/demand dynamics. The ensuing debate tends to indicate that employers would then employ unqualified or untrained persons with the resultant risk of the failure of the system through poor design, operation and maintenance.

The answer must therefore lie in addressing both limitations and to converge towards a combination of necessity and sufficiency and meeting a standard of safety and reliability which effectively means a level that is decreed by adherence to the laws of science. That is a pretty good advantage we have in our profession.

SA is essentially set up for this structure via internationally accredited tertiary qualifications, a well-defined candidate training model with professionally focused assessment criteria, which will shortly be joined by the requirements of Identification of Engineering Work (IDoEW). As with any great rules and structures, they are only any use if implemented effectively by the parties concerned.

Can there be any doubt that Engineers would want to maximize the return on time and effort? As the income levels rise, more Engineers will enter the profession. But engineering, of all the professions, is 
probably the one most readily open to the "quacks" of the discipline, employing guess work, non-adherence to standards, quick fixes and obfuscations which can delude the public. Examples are rife. 

Then there is the take-over of roles that should be performed by the Engineer by bean counters and politicians and the like in matters of selection of cost effectiveness on maintenance, for one example.

This prostitution of Engineering can therefore only be contained by regulation. Thus, as we proceed from the well regulated tertiary starting point, we recognize the need for competence standards and assessment criteria for registration, followed by IDoEW in the realm of practice.

The demand then for the numbers of Engineers required will follow from the needs of society. The constant refrain on scarcity of skills would indicate that the demand still exceeds supply. This imbalance is aggravated by the social engineering effects such as BEE which frequently skew the balance of skills. If only the system would recognize the serious loss of continuum created by expelling the older experienced white Engineers. When their intellect is gone, how will the younger Engineers develop?

We may have a bit of a breakthrough on the involvement of the retired Engineers as Mentors. To encourage this, as from April 2015, the SETAs are obligated to fund the training of Candidate Engineers. 

Most of this funding is destined to pay Mentors in a structured mentorship process.

In reality, engineering remuneration is growing to hopefully compare with the other professions. Let's keep it that way. Professional recognition, upkeep of high standards and ethical conduct will raise the status of Engineers in society.

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