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 and to address skills development. 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 Statutory Council.
SAICE-PDP plays a key role in supporting the development of the required competence in many organisations, by assessing in-house technical staff to determine their progress towards registration and identifying gaps in experience that need to be addressed.
Where senior technical staff members have been promoted to managerial roles, and do not have sufficient experience to register, but cannot be seconded to obtain the necessary experience, SAICE-PDP offers the assistance of retired professionals 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.
While recruitment of new staff in the open market may be one solution to address technical staff vacancies, it is imperative that a long-term strategy for developing staff through an in-house system be put in place. This will allow staff to grow through the ranks and develop institutional knowledge.
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, challenging assignments and coaching.
SAICE-PDP has developed comprehensive competence profiles for technical posts to guide human resources and management in the appropriate selection and appointment of staff.
The retirement in large numbers of experienced municipal staff in the first decade after the re-demarcation of local government has resulted in the loss of institutional memory in all departments. Updated job descriptions and associated competence requirements needed to be developed to address the needs of restructured departments.
Considering the tasks to be handled for each senior post, and the associated knowledge, skill and ability, SAICE-PDP has worked with both Gauteng Local Government and COGTA to develop competence profiles for the built environment professions gathering input from voluntary associations and professional bodies.
The competence profiles were gazetted for comment in October 2016, fine-tuned in early 2017 and are awaiting Cabinet approval.
Municipal job descriptions
With the competence framework model in place, SAICE-PDP was tasked with developing job descriptions for technical posts from elementary workers to the Technical Director.
Having made a detailed study of municipal organograms for all types of municipalities, big and small, a set of job descriptions for the type of staff expected in each department has been developed along with a typical organogram per department. Organograms and job descriptions are grouped as follows:
- Engineering Directorate
- Admin Support
- Water Management and Planning
- Water Operations
- Sewerage Management and Planning
- Sewerage Operations
- Roads Management and Planning
- Roads Operations
Job descriptions cover the range of occupations including elementary workers, trades, administrative staff, health and safety officers, planners, technicians, technologists and engineers. The profiles include qualifications, experience, as well as the generic, functional and managerial competences required. SAICE-PDP can assist municipalities with departmental structuring, organograms, competence profiles and job descriptions.
As SAICE-PDP has access to many experienced engineers it is called upon from time to time to troubleshoot or offer technical support, but this must be coupled with coaching and mentoring.
Where SAICE-PDP is called up to assist with 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 it is critical that junior staff are taken on to participate in the processes.
Initially, they are involved in the research associated with these activities, meetings, and negotiations. As problems are addressed and systems are put in place, they learn how to handle the more complex responsibilities associated with senior management and service delivery.
Organisations must therefore commit to skills development before being able to access strategic technical support from SAICE-PDP.
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 all levels in operational departments understand and adhere to the SOPs, they are translated into pictorial representations and posters which can be 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.