SAIMC


Unplanned shutdowns are an insult to professionals

April 2023 SAIMC

Previously I wrote about companies caught off guard by needing to understand the legislation relating to professional engineering practitioners, and not understanding the responsibilities placed on employers. Engineers, technicians and technologists are now regulated to a greater extent than in the past, when all that was required was a certificate on the wall. Now they must have relevant experience in the field in which they operate.


Johan Maartens.

Here are some of the questions that may arise. What does ECSA registration have to do with it? What does ECSA know about my business? I have been in this business now for many years, why should I expose myself to ECSA – which knows nothing about my job – and ask to be registered as a professional? What if the person doing the assessment does not understand my work or does not like how I document my reports?

There are a few incorrect assumptions in these arguments. ECSA does not do assessments. ECSA trains professionals in the relevant industry to do the reviews. Therefore it is critical that engineers, technologists and technicians with experience in mechatronic devices, factory automation, and process automation contact ECSA and register to be trained as assessors. This ensures that there are more experienced professionals in the field to review new applicants.

The assessments are carried out by three groups of three people. The first group individually reviews the applicant’s documents and makes recommendations. None of the three know who the others are because the reports are sent to each person individually by email. The second group consists of three others who receive all the applicant’s information and recommendations from the first three reviewers. One of their roles is to “probe for more information during the interview”. Then the third group of three people condutcs the final review. These are other assessors who did not communicate with the first six apart from reading their reports and feedback.

Some professionals have 30 years of experience, but it could be one year of experience repeated 30 times. The interviewers’ task is to assess whether the applicants have sufficient experience to be ‘let loose’ on the public. ‘Unplanned shutdown’ has become a household name. As a professional, unplanned shutdowns could cost you your job. It is an insult to you and your team. How many engineers, technologists and technicians have the knowledge and experience to ensure that unplanned shutdowns never become household names? The public should not even know this term; it embarrasses the whole organisation.

Bad service delivery and unplanned shutdowns are two of the reasons why a piece of paper against a wall in a nice frame no longer cuts it. No amount of empowerment or years in the industry will alone qualify a person as a registered professional. In the past, every Tom, Dick and Harry called themselves engineers or technicians. These times have now passed. Professional Engineer Tom, Pr. Eng., Professional Engineering Technologist Dick Pr.Tech.Eng., and Professional Engineering Technician Harry Pr. Techni Eng. will now service the industry.

Becoming a professional brings enormous responsibilities to the individual and considerable benefits to the public. You now have a leg to stand on if you encounter unplanned breakages or bad service, and suspect unethical behaviour. Complaints can be lodged with ECSA, a statutory professional regulatory body established in terms of Section 2 of the Engineering Profession Act No. 46 of 2000 (“the Act”). ECSA operates within the ambit of the Built Environment Profession.

No, I am not an employee of ECSA. I was not paid to provide this letter, nor was I asked by ECSA to place it. I am one of those individuals who have seen the incredible feats of the engineering profession over the years in organisations such as Sasol, South African Railways, etc. Later I saw how the engineering profession come into disrepute due to political interference, criminal behaviour, incompetence, lack of experience and bad attitudes.

It is time to turn the tide. Certificates can no longer buy people positions, and neither can their race. It is now a question of “show me the money, honey”. We want to see valid, applicable experience. By appointing professionally registered people, industry leaders can have a person who was interviewed by at least nine other people in their engineering discipline. But you need to know your responsibilities. You need them to go to exhibitions such as Electra Mining and the Africa Automation and Technology Fair. Here they can see the latest equipment, talk to professionals about technical problems they are battling with, and obtain the CPD points that they need to remain registered.

It is an embarrassment to hear that engineering managers who know so little about their discipline that they force their employees to take leave to go to these events, or become members of the voluntary associations where they can continue their learning experience and benefit their industry. This is a wake-up call for engineering managers, and I am not asking ‘on behalf of a friend’, as a good friend said in a letter to the President.

For supporting information and documentation, visit www.ecsa.co.za or www.saimc.co.za, and direct any queries to the contacts published on the websites.

To visit Africa Automation and Technology Fair between 9 and 11 May 2023 at Gallagher Estate, please register here: https://aatf.showhub.live/


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