Consulting engineers encouraged to take nontraditional approach

24th April 2015


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With government pushing for greater transformation and inclusivity in the engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) sector, consulting engineers are being called upon to take a nontraditional approach to the implementation of major projects and to spearhead transformation through project execution, says consulting engineering company Dynacon EPC.

“This will require a new type of leadership from engineering firms, where they actively drive skills transfer and development to enable meaningful empowerment while delivering on projects as required,” says Dynacon CEO Fani Mtetwa.

As the International Monetary Fund continues to reduce gross domestic product growth forecasts – both locally and internationally – its latest global economic growth figure of only 3.5% for 2015 puts South Africa’s ambitious local target of 5% by 2019 at risk, as this slow global growth is coupled with domestic constraints in energy, skills, transport and logistics, among others.

“With government identifying major infrastructure project roll-out as a key means of challenging and actively addressing slower growth rates, we support a different approach to be taken in terms of project leadership from various sectors, including mining,” says Mtetwa.

He says mining houses are being asked to use projects to develop and deliver innovative strategies that address the skills and know-how gaps and move the industry forward, ensuring that it becomes more inclusive and representative.

Meaningful transformation is a critical requirement of this leadership approach, and must be driven by mining clients and their consulting engineer suppliers. Projects have to be used to actively transfer skills and knowledge, and thereby build capacity throughout the hierarchy from engineer to technologist, technician and artisan, through to the general workers.

This intervention must be prioritised within larger engineering companies, smaller subcontracting firms and at community level so that a new generation of resources to lead projects of this nature can be developed.

“Transformation plans must be developed and monitored, with transparency the overarching feature of the industry,” says Mtetwa.

He notes that the process will require consulting engineers to empower technical managers within their organisations with strong project and contract management expertise.

“A ‘back to basics’ approach is needed regarding the development of a generation of young talented black engineers, technologists and technicians,” he says, adding that the registration of these candidates in the discipline of project management with the Engineering Council of South Africa should also be seen as non-negotiable and even demanded at client level if required.

Enterprise and supplier development must also be implemented as a critical deliverable on all projects, no matter the size or value.

“As key clients of some of the major engineering firms in South Africa, mining houses need to use their position of influence, and their commitment to the Mining Charter, to ensure sustainable development of small-scale suppliers by their consulting engineers. “This approach will have a snowball effect, boosting local and regional economic growth,” says Mtetwa.

He notes that, while this empowerment exercise will initially mean greater upfront input from both the engineering firms and mining houses in the short term, it is far more strategic in the long term – and will engender the type of collaboration with communities that is necessary to meet the real needs of South Africans at grassroots level.

“This way the EPCM and mining sectors will make a far greater contribution to realising the vision of the National Development Plan. They will additionally be empowering young talented professionals from all walks of life to step up, design and deliver real-life solutions that drive economic growth and have legacy impact,” he concludes.

Edited by Leandi Kolver
Creamer Media Deputy Editor


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