Based on articles written for the conference, “The Engineering Skills Summit”, and due to my overseas engineering experience, I have learned that in most countries, a combination of long- to medium-term structured project plans can be used as an effective tool to create and sustain engineering jobs for graduates and professional engineers within the industry, because these plans are pro-active rather than dealing with unplanned project reactions.

It was indeed a blessing to unemployed South African professional engineers and most engineering companies when the government approved funding for major 2010 FIFA World Cup projects as a once-off large funding intervention for major infrastructure projects – construction of stadiums and other infrastructure. However, that was a short-term solution to create jobs created and now that these projects are completed the jobs could not be sustained. With my international experience of working for different city councils under some local government policies, I had the opportunity to learn and put my learning into practice, on utilising the AMP as a key tool to create and sustain local government jobs.

Job creation and sustainability could only be successful once the local government’s policies could create means for local authorities to establish verified ‘Long-Term Implementation Plans’ (LTIP 10-year engineering forecast), as well as the management of the medium-term ‘Asset Management Plans’ (AMP 3 to 5-year engineering forecast). This approach is adopted globally by many countries. I still believe that there are lots of engineering job opportunities provided the AMPs could be adopted as a vehicle to maintain the existing assets and to deal with growth or future developments under ‘New Planned Works’, which will result in creating more employment opportunities for both individuals and for small to medium-size engineering firms.

Aims and objectives of the LTIPs and the AMPs

The LTIP’s aims and objectives are to set out broad strategic direction for the long-term forecast, whilst the AMP is prepared as a preliminary strategic planning in advance of the preparation of the LTIP; hence more preparations are done under AMP where financial forecast is determined by identifying ‘New Planned Works’, and the evaluation of current assets in order to establish budgets for job creation forecast.

In that case, AMP will be used as a key tool that combines management, financial, engineering and technical job forecasting to also ensure that the agreed levels of services (between the government and the community service delivery agreements, based on area needs) are provided at the optimum long-term cost. The AMP would then provide a long- to medium-term planning overview of assets management requirements, and specific works programmes. This could be applicable to all disciplines like wastewater, water, stormwater, roads, electrical, etc.

The importance of asset condition and capacity analysis

My example in this case is based on wastewater assets. The good practice is to carry out the asset condition and capacity analysis before any long-term financial forecast could be done. The asset and capacity analysis maybe time-consuming but for proper planning, this process could not be ignored –  the main purpose in mind is job forecast through ‘New Planned Works’. On examining how this long- term forecast can generate bulk professional jobs, a 10-year assumption is made when work is done without and with AMPs in place.
 

Work without AMPs

The fact is that work done without AMPs, produces backlogs. That will always precede ‘New Planned Works’ which result in a reaction-mode and disturb the approved budget expenditure due to unplanned emerging works.


Work with AMPs in place

Once the AMPs are in place, the backlog could be managed within a few years and ‘New Planned Works’ will begin to precede the backlog to accommodate growth and new development. As indicated in the above figure, the first few years (approximately two years) are normally earmarked for condition and capacity assessment which is time-consuming but vital for proper engineering job planning. The fact is that, the medium- to long-term planning would give realistic timings to projects with verified and valid asset data inputs, as well as a means to implement strategies as a vehicle to assign required resources for future delivery.

These long-term plans are therefore regarded as key tools to optimise timing of projects and in the end to reduce the unplanned works and generate a consistent budgeting philosophy across all government engineering disciplines. They also align the expenditure with growth predictions under ‘New Works Planned’ where stakeholders within the local authorities are then able to create and sustain engineering professional jobs in the engineering industry.

Conclusion

I believe a solution on issues discussed in “The Engineering Skills Summit”, is to adopt the global philosophy of utilising the medium- to long-term planning, as also highlighted by Allyson Lawless, since this will also accommodate the future graduates to attain proper engineering skills and to fill vacancies for engineering professional gaps under ‘New Planned Works’.

Prerequisite

It is also important to note that there might be good medium- to long-term engineering plans for implementation in place produced by infrastructure delivery managers, BUT if there is no good working relationship between the engineering, the procurement and finance departments, those plans will be in vain. You might have good plans but if there are delays from other departments to approve, appoint, and release funds on time, these long-term plans will be worthless and professional engineering unemployment will still be an issue in years to come.

The good news is that, should these departments work together, there will be vacancies for upcoming graduates, professional engineers, and small to medium-sized companies will also benefit.

 I believe that the AMPs are the only vehicles for smart working rather than working harder!

Should you wish to contact Isabel Radebe:

Mobile: 079 411 6240

Email: iradebe@hotmail.com


 

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