In a statement issued by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), the organisation has decried South Africa’s brain drain problem as reaching alarming proportions, particularly in the infrastructure sector.
SAICE has in the past three years lost 1.73% of its members, aged 30-60, to emigration who cite seeking greener pastures and opportunities. The organisation has called on goverment to to make strides to attract South African engineers back to South Africa and back into the public sector where they are most needed.
“The serious shortage of technically qualified managers in all three spheres of government is of great concern. It appears the weakness in government structures is the lack of knowledge on how to identify projects and how to effectively spend the allocated money. This is evident from the lack of structures, processes, systems as well as suitably qualified and experienced individuals in government to manage infrastructure spend. It is necessary to urgently re-install appropriately qualified and professionally registered technical people back into the system to plan, identify, procure and manage large-spend engineering projects to unlock the economy,” says SAICE.
Public sector bottlenecks
In a survey conducted by SAICE, amongst 1,367 of its members, 932 (68%) of the surveyed engineering professionals indicated willingness to work in the public sector. However, there are specific issues preventing engineering professionals from joining the public sector, it says: “These include an over-politicisation of infrastructure departments, the diminished decision-making roles of technocrats, the lack of systems, processes and structures for efficient administration, lack of training, development and career paths, and unwarranted interference of HR and finance divisions in the work of infrastructure engineering professionals.”
Commenting on the issue, SAICE acting CEO Steven Kaplan said, “The brain drain happening in industry is devastating. It costs the country a lot of money and resources to produce world class engineers; to lose them because they can’t find work in a country where they’re needed the most is a travesty. SAICE has, however, been raising these concerns on behalf of its members (individual civil engineering practitioners) for years now and continues to offer assistance to government to alleviate these and many more technical capacity-related challenges.”