August each year in South Africa observes Women’s Day and Women’s Month in celebration of the inspiring and courageous women who fought for equality and inclusion of all in the economic and social activities of the country.
These women passed the baton to the new generation of women to advocate for persistent participation of women in male-dominated trades. The fields of science, technology, construction and engineering are some of the areas where female participation is relatively low, despite measures and interventions put in place to see equal representation.
An article published on Bizcommunity says that the proportion of females to males who graduate with STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees is out of balance.
Women are underrepresented in maths and statistics (4:5), ICT and technology (2:5), as well as engineering, manufacturing and construction (3:10). As a result, there is a significantly smaller pool of female STEM talent, further entrenching perceptions about the engineering and built environment industry.
These statistics are also reflected in the number of female registered persons in the Engineering Council of South Africa’s (ECSA) database. According to recorded figures, at the end of the 2018/19 financial year, the number of registered persons stood at 57 869 of which only 7 687 were female.
Equal representation of both men and women within an industry that is predominantly male-dominated requires intentional strides by the industry to ensure that this gap is closed. Ms Tumisang Maphumulo (Pr Eng), Corporate Specialist, Master Mentor at Eskom and ECSA Council member, proposes that this can be achieved through the hosting of virtual information sharing events. These sessions, according to Maphumulo, would focus on information pertaining to admission requirements to institutions of higher learning for Grade 12 learners; types of engineering qualifications and the associated categories; the difference in the roles of the different categories and types of discipline and the key role of these disciplines.
“The target audience should ideally be Grade 9 learners at high schools, because they need to be empowered to make informed decisions when they choose the six subjects in grade 10,” Maphumulo said further. Moreover, making the few thriving female engineering professionals visible and accessible to young professionals will also go a long way towards promoting and attracting more women into the sector.
Mentorship and coaching can also be leveraged to support women engineers, with the latter being a core pillar for career decision making. According to Maphumulo, Voluntary Associations (VAs) also play a crucial support role as they strive to bring empowerment to the engineering professionals though training courses.
There needs to be a change in the way the youth is taught and supported in terms of education and skills development, and how they make use of those skills in the education system and ultimately in the labour market and economy. ECSA has successfully addressed this through its Engenius Programme, which aims to highlight the importance of the engineering field to primary and high school learners. This is achieved through school visits and exhibitions around the country.
The programme also encourages students to choose STEM subjects. These are but a few interventions to ensure that gender imbalances are levelled from an early age and that girls know that they too can excel in engineering and technology industries.
New CPD standard outlines the roles and responsibilities of licensed bodies and verified providers
The framework that clearly delineates the role of ECSA as the sole custodian of CPD, also allows ECSA to delegate related CPD functions to organisations and bodies for purposes of verifying CPD service providers and validating CPD activities.
To ensure that these functions are carried out to meet the regulatory role of ECSA, a new CPD standard has been introduced and was developed in line with the Engineering Profession Act (No. 46 of 2000) and the Rules: CPD and Renewal of Registration, as seen in the Government Gazette, No. 40847 of 19 May 2017 and thereafter referred to as the rules.
This standard titled ‘ECPD-STD-01’ sees ECSA delegate powers to CPD Licensed Bodies who are voluntary associations and public and private higher education Institutions to verify CPD service providers who include voluntary associations, public and private higher education institutions and other service providers who are responsible for validating CPD activities.
The CPD Licensed Bodies are bodies that have been licensed by ECSA and delegated to verify CPD service providers and validate CPD Activities for CPD Category 1 Activities. The licensed bodies ensure that the quality of the CPD Activity is of an appropriate standard for the target audience.
Furthermore, they monitor and audit the CPD service providers. ECSA will maintain the role of monitoring and auditing the CPD licensed body to ensure that the CPD activities that are offered by the licensed body meet the standards and quality for the target audience. This implies that the licensed body cannot verify itself as a CPD service provider.
As the sole CPD authority ECSA, as and when necessary, may inspect the premises of the prospective CPD licensed body to verify the information submitted at the application stage; request additional information if necessary, audit the prospective CPD Licensed Body and, share the information in terms of the audit procedure within a reasonable time.
On the other hand, verified CPD service providers comprise higher education institutions, ECSA-recognised voluntary associations and any private educational institution approved by Council to offer appropriate learning in respect of Category 1 CPD Activities.
The CPD service provider is the only authority that is responsible for applying for validation of CPD Activities, and the CPD service provider is thus accountable for delivery of quality CPD Activities. The status of verified CPD service provider is not transferable to a third party and, therefore, the service provider is accountable for the delivery of validated activities.
The verification and review period of a verified CPD service provider will be every three years. If any of the aspects presented during application change within the verification / review period, the new details must be submitted to the CPD Licensed Body within seven days.
The new standard, which is available on the official ECSA website, provides further information on the requirements and processes to be recognised as a CPD Licensed Body and CPD service provider. The document further details the process of validating CPD activities.