Engineering expertise is critical for building Africa’s energy infrastructure. Black & Veatch, a global leader in engineering, procurement and construction, is sharing its knowledge and experience to help South African engineering graduates gain the skills required to support future energy projects.
According to Joseph Mahendran, Regional Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa at Black & Veatch, the need is becoming more urgent with long-term energy demand expanding with future economic and population growth.
He says, “South Africa, like other developing regions around the world, needs a large pool of competent engineers that have had solid, diverse on-the-job work experience to apply the latest technologies, implement successful projects, access career opportunities, and drive economic progress in the continent. Engineering graduates play a key role in sustaining necessary technical capabilities.”
“Slowdown of South Africa’s economy has led some engineering-focused companies to reduce operational costs, often cutting training and development programmes. As experienced engineers retire from the profession, an inevitable skills gap could have adverse effects on future projects,” says Mahendran.
Engineering graduate recruitment, training, and retention are integral to providing long-term support of Black & Veatch projects in the region. To build an effective local talent pipeline, the company developed a 24-month skills transfer programme that includes engineer-in-training guidance, with a focus on power generation projects. As part of Black & Veatch’s global skills development and training approaches, the programme transforms graduates into skilled professionals eligible to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa.
“Black & Veatch develops professionals who are self-motivated team players, efficient, flexible and able to think critically about engineering solutions,” says Mahendran. “Having a highly skilled workforce improves productivity and competitiveness in the greater global economy.”
“One of the highlights of Black & Veatch’s programme in South Africa thus far has been the ability to directly support tasks related to the Kusile Power Station project, one of the largest construction sites in the Southern hemisphere,” says Ishaaq Surtee, a 2016 Mechanical Engineer-in-Training graduate.
He adds, “If I had to describe the engineer-in-training programme I would describe it as an empowering environment for graduates to learn and develop skills on the job. The programme includes a combination of course-based learning and situational experiences. Combined with the wealth of knowledge and resources at Black & Veatch, as well as continuous mentoring and supervision, I have developed the skills necessary to move forward in my engineering career.”
“Black & Veatch’s training programme has given me opportunities to supplement my theoretical knowledge with practical experiences. I have learned a lot through various assigned tasks. Excellent guidance from our other professionals has helped me discover and deepen my passion for mechanical engineering.”
“The biggest highlight of my career thus far has definitely been working on the Kusile power station project. It has been an amazing experience working on the world’s fourth largest coal-fired power plant in the world,” says Merlin Naidoo, graduate of Black & Veatch’s training programme.
According to Mahendran, placement at the end of the programme is largely dependent on the individual’s overall performance, interaction and integration with the team and the availability of suitable positions.