Digitisation: the key to attracting young people to an engineering career

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Engineering consultancies who want to maintain a competitive edge need to encourage young people to drive digitisation projects and strategies within their organisations, says Keith Katyora of global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon.

An Electrical Engineer and Chairperson of the Young Professional Forum’s Gauteng North Division, Katyora, who completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering in 2016 from the University of Pretoria, says many South African students and graduate engineers are presenting innovative digital solutions to engineering problems.

“It’s not only experienced senior engineers who come up with workable solutions for infrastructure, energy, buildings and roads in South Africa. Many of the most disruptive, digital-focused and innovative ideas that are being presented in the industry, stem from young engineers who are in forward-thinking engineering consultancies who are looking to create smart African cities. Students, in particular, are coming up with interesting solutions that industry should take note of. Young people who, for example, are researching blockchain solutions, renewable technologies and power plant efficiency, are the ones who are presenting new solutions to old problems,” he says.

The Young Professional Forum (the Forum) is part of Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) and its goal is to aid the advancement of young professionals within the consulting engineering industry. The Forum will host six prominent events in 2018 with the focus of many of these to encourage young people to pursue careers in engineering.

“The engineering sector continues to lose young engineers to the finance sector. Why is it that engineers are increasingly taking jobs at insurance companies and banks? Many young engineers, including me are of the opinion that it’s because the finance sector in South Africa is embracing technology. Financial institutions are often agile, flexible and open to being led by young people with new ideas. Many engineering companies are still clinging to the old way of doing business. To ensure that engineering remains a desirable career, we need to make sure we’re not frustrating young people who want to explore digital solutions,” says Katyora.

Some of the upcoming events that the Forum will be hosting include: the Future Leaders’ Career Expo on 20 July; a panel discussion about how young professionals should go about mapping out their career paths called ‘Transform Yourself’ on 1 August; and an energy debate on 13 September.

Katyora says he is particularly looking forward to the energy debate as the event will be focused on gathering perspectives from young professionals and an array of industry bodies, including the Black Energy Professionals Association, SA Institute of Electrical Engineers, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and Youth in Energy.

“Many discussions about current energy issues, such as Eskom’s possible restructuring, which will play a significant role in the development of South Africa’s energy landscape in the future, do not include the voices of young people. Not only do young engineers have a solid understanding of the current challenges, as well as digitally-driven ideas about how to overcome these challenges, but many of these people will also be in decision-making positions soon. It’s time for young engineers to band together and make sure our voices and ideas are heard, and what better time to do this than Youth Month,” concludes Katyora.

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