It’s well-known that there are major skills shortages in South Africa but, as the country is about to embark on a massive infrastructure build, it’s vital to understand exactly what skills we have, and where the gaps are.

The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) yesterday launched an ambitious campaign to do just this by attempting to quantify the exact position in relation to engineers, technologists and technicians in the country.

The Engineering Skills Survey will attempt to investigate the extent of available skills in South Africa that can then guide the future action required to strengthen the engineering skills pipeline as well as address needs within the industry.

The survey will focus on determining:

* How many engineers, engineering technologists, engineering technicians and associated engineering practitioners are currently employed in the engineering sector both locally and abroad.

* How many engineering practitioners per discipline are currently practising;

* The education and training routes followed by various categories of practitioners;

* How many practitioners are not registered professionally and why;

* The challenges faced by graduates requiring workplace training; and

* The extent to which engineering practitioners have left the industry or the country and why.

“We really need to have a reliable set of statistics guiding our decisions on engineering skills development,” says ECSA council member Allyson Lawless. “The country also needs to understand where the bottlenecks are with respect to development towards professional registration.”

The information will also help to establish the ratio between engineers, engineering technicians and technologists and the learning pathways followed to develop as engineering practitioners. These will help to inform articulation, particularly from FET colleges to universities of technology.

The data gathered by the Engineering Skills Survey will be a valuable input for the Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) that are the cornerstone of the National Infrastructure Build that underpins the National Development Plan. This will allow the gap between engineering skills demand and supply to be determined and inform what needs to be done in terms of a skills pipeline.

The Engineering Skills Survey has been posted online at ECSA is urging all companies and individuals involved in any aspect of engineering at any phase of their careers to participate.

The survey will run for two months, and detailed findings will be published in March 2014.