SA in need of scientists, engineers
SOUTH Africa is in desperate need of qualified scientists and engineers while the shortage of female engineers is even greater.
Unesco estimates last year showed that only 11% of engineers are female.
Parktown High School for Girls, a government school in Johannesburg, is determined to address this vast skills gap and has partnered with Anglo American mines to establish a science centre where pupils can see the practical relevance of science and engineering, to open up the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) fields as viable career options.
The science centre was opened in late 2016 to the school’s 1100 pupils.
Principal Tracey Megom said the idea for the centre was born 15 years ago, but the school initially struggled to come up with the money to build it, so parents started fund raising and looking for partners.
The mining company, through its Chairman’s Fund, co-invested in the project in January 2015.
“Without that funding, it might have taken us another three to four years to complete the project,” Megom said.
She said last year’s matric class were the first to benefit, and the results were telling – 39% of matric pupils achieved a distinction in physi- cal sciences, up from 23% in 2014.
In the larger context of South Africa’s Stem skills shortage, this result is massively encouraging.
A study by the Engineering Council of South Africa estimated the total number of engineers, technologists and technicians working in the country at 120 000, well below the number required to drive the economy and the country forward.
“This deficit is putting the government’s 15-year R3.2 trillion infrastructure development project in peril. And when you take a closer look, the engineers that are graduating are mostly male, perpetuating the under-representation of women in the Stem fields,” she said.
Feedback from the school is that
SKILLS SHORTAGE: The Engineering Council of SA says the number of engineers is far below the required level.