Earlier this week, the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE) released a report on South African engineers leaving the country in alarming numbers, which in turn is hurting the economy.

According to the report, SA’s brain drain problem is reaching massive proportions, which is an issue that needs urgent intervention. Adding to that in 2017, statistics from the Department of Home Affairs showed that eight South African professionals left for every skilled foreigner who entered the country.

“South Africa has excellent, experienced engineers both locally, as well as those who are currently working outside the country. Government needs to make strides to attract South African engineers back to the country and back into our government sector where they are most needed,” said the report.

SAICE adds that it is one of the biggest professional voluntary associations and has 12 000 members of which it has lost 1.73 percent to emigration in the past three years. The members are aged between 30 to 60 years, and majority of the members state that they are seeking greener pastures and opportunities as reasons of departure from the country.

“The serious shortage of technically qualified managers in all three spheres of government is of great concern. It appears the weakness in government structure is the lack of knowledge on how to identify projects and how to effectively spend the allocated money,” the report added.

SAICE further conducted a survey amongst 932 members in which 68 percent of engineering professionals indicated a willingness to work in the public sector, but there were specific issues that prevented engineers to join it, such as:

  • Over politicisation of infrastructure departments
  • The diminished decision-making roles of technocrats
  • The lack of systems
  • Process and structure 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.

“The brain drain happening in the 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,” added SAICE acting CEO, Steven Kaplan.

“SAICE has however been raising these concerns on behalf of its members for years now and continues to offer assistance to government to alleviate these and many more technical capacity related challenges,” concluded Kaplan.

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