Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) CEO Chris Campbell is questioning the decision by Government to import engineering skills when we have a current situation where our own local engineering skills in the private sector are under-utilised, together with a large pool of unemployed graduates.

In CESA’s Bi-annual Economic and Capacity Survey (BECS) recently released statistics showing that since 2012 the capacity utilisation of local engineering skills has dropped from a utilisation rate of 95% to the current 80% in the most recent survey.

“This reduction in capacity utilisation, coupled with the large pool of unemployed graduates, begs the question as to why government is importing foreign skills when we already have those skills locally within the private sector?” questions Campbell.

“Employing highly-skilled locally experienced engineers supported by unemployed graduates will provide a more sustainable solution,” says Campbell. Campbell believes that the 24 Cuban Engineers are not going to make a dent in the capacity challenges that exist at provincial and national levels in the Department of Water and Sanitation. The solution, he believes, is to address this through meaningful public/private partnerships.

We acknowledge the important role that Cuba played in our struggle for freedom and the cooperation agreement which started as far back as 2001, between our two countries in respect of Water Resources Management, Water Supply and Sanitation, asserts Campbell. “South Africa is known for its own engineering skills globally, with our water resource management substantially larger in scope than that of Cuba, so this appears to be an ongoing and fruitless exercise in skills exchange at the expense of our own unemployed engineers.”

It therefore then also begs the question why so little has been done to leverage our local expertise and grow our own future capacity over the past 20 years.

A sustainable partnership between Government and the Private Sector on engineering capacity development has been on offer by the Private Sector over the past 10 years which sadly, for reasons unknown to us, has not been adequately embraced by the Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Human Settlements. Campbell though, in conclusion, confirms that the offer has never had an expiration date.