Due to the lack of structured graduate development taking place, a regional committee should be formed under the SADC Technical Committee on Higher Education, Training, Research and Development composed of employers and professional bodies, who have been successful with graduate training. The committee should develop graduate training guidelines for the region to ensure that graduates achieve the level of competence required by industry and for professional registration.
Guidelines should include an overview of the variety of engineering activities that could contribute to graduate development, along with all the elements required for successful graduate development, such as:
- Committed employers, graduates, supervisors, mentors and managers, and suitable engineering activities or projects on which to gain experience
- Approaches to developing and updating training plans
- Supervision, coaching and mentor roles, requirements and techniques
- Resources and support systems required
- Reporting and reviewing mechanisms, etc.
Management and structure
Graduate programmes should be managed by engineering professionals and should include the opportunity for rotation or secondment where appropriate experience is not available in existing positions. Graduates must also be afforded the opportunity to take on increasing responsibility and increasingly complex work.
The committee will need to consider and propose various options, allowing for flexibility and adaptation by employers, as experience per discipline and sector varies and no two workplaces are alike.
Approaches to ensure that every ‘engineering workplace becomes a training space’ need to be considered.
- Private sector incentives: Tax rebates or incentives should be considered for private sector service providers such as consultants and contractors to develop graduates.
- Public sector support: Public sector structures should take on and train graduates, and they should be developed through the ranks.
- Institutional support: Graduate training should be institutionalised in all organisations by setting KPIs for experienced staff to act as supervisors and mentors.
- Project support: Graduate training should be made a requirement of all public sector projects, progress should be monitored, and penalties should be imposed for non-compliance.
- Industrial development support: Tax rebates or incentives for local industrial companies should be considered to develop graduates or make graduate training a condition of offset agreements in the case of international investors developing local industries.
Promotion and support
Once adequately designed and documented, professional bodies should promote and support such programmes, advising on and assisting with access to mentors, as well as training employers, mentors, and candidates alike on what is expected of them in the first few years of a graduate’s career.