The Numbers & Needs Studies of 2005 and 2007 revealed a shortage of qualified civil engineering professionals throughout the country. Further research indicated that many graduates are unable to progress because there are insufficient opportunities to gain exposure to meaningful engineering work at the desired level of complexity.
In response, SAICE-PDP offers support to all tiers of government to address the shortage of experienced engineering and related professionals. It is essential to re-build technical structures, staffed with persons who can maintain the existing infrastructure asset base, as well as implement new capital projects to cater for growth and effectively manage professional service providers.
Developing in-house staff
Employing technical professionals requires more than checking their academic qualifications. It is essential that middle and senior management are competent to work independently and apply sound professional judgement when making decisions. To ensure such a level of competence requires that practitioners are professionally registered with an appropriate Professional Body or Statutory Council.
SAICE-PDP plays a key role in developing the required competence in many organisations, by assessing in-house technical staff to determine their progress towards registration, and gaps in experience that need to be addressed. Where senior technical staff members have been promoted to managerial roles, do not have sufficient experience to register, and cannot be rotated as easily as junior staff to obtain the necessary experience, SAICE-PDP offers the assistance of retired professional engineers to challenge and coach such individuals to achieve professional registration in the work situation.
Career pathing and succession planning
Many organisations face the reality of having insufficient competent and experienced technical staff. Recruitment of new staff in the open market may be one solution to address technical staff vacancies. However, due to the scarcity of suitable candidates, it is imperative that a long-term strategy for developing staff through an in-house system be put in place. Succession planning and the retention of scarce skills must be part of an integrated human resources process that includes training, development and performance appraisals.
SAICE-PDP can assist in developing career paths, assessment systems for progression, and ensuring that the skills of candidates and potential successors are developed through work experiences, job rotation and challenging assignments.
SAICE-PDP has developed comprehensive competence profiles for technical posts to guide human resources and management in the appropriate selection and appointment of staff.
In 2016, SAICE-PDP made a significant contribution to the development of competence profiles for all technical posts, including seniority requirements in local government, with the inputs from other voluntary associations and built environment councils. The competency profiles were gazetted for comment in October 2016, fine-tuned in early 2017 and are awaiting Cabinet approval.
SAICE-PDP can advise municipalities on departmental structuring, organograms, competence profiles and job descriptions, which form the basis for candidate competence development and the professionalisation of local government. Furthermore, assistance can be provided to develop sustainable career paths and occupation-specific dispensation strategies and policies.
To develop staff, it is essential to ensure that they participate in meaningful work experience activities. When senior engineers are appointed to support substantial numbers of candidates, they are also harnessed to handle the more strategic elements of project delivery, and operations and maintenance, such as overseeing the development of master plans, developing scopes of work and tender documents, budgets, revenue enhancement strategies, and operations and maintenance plans to ensure that service delivery takes place. Where service delivery fails, they are deployed to troubleshoot, develop and implement systems and procedures to prevent reoccurrence. Candidates are generally involved in the research associated with these activities, meetings and negotiations, and they learn how to handle the more complex responsibilities associated with senior management and service delivery.
Development and reinforcement of standard operating procedures
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) have all but disappeared in many organisations, owing to the departure of experienced professionals and the many institutional changes that have occurred in recent years, particularly in municipal and parastatal organisations. SAICE-PDP has recognised the need to rectify this and has assisted with the development of SOPs and reinstated existing SOPs in various organisations so that all operational and administrative activities are dealt with in a standardised manner, to ensure continued service delivery at the desired levels of quality and reliability.
To ensure all levels in operational departments understand and adhere to the SOPs, they are translated into pictorial representations and posters which can be conveyed to and understood by staff deployed in the field. However, this is insufficient to entrench behavioural change, and courses and coaching at different organisational levels are offered to reinforce the practical application of the SOPs.