SA in need of sci­en­tists, en­gi­neers

The New Age (Free State) - - GAUTENG NEWS - NTOMBI NKOSI

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.

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