The Eastern Cape leg of the annual presidential visit took place between 3rd to 6th March 2014. A significant event on the SAICE calendar, the presidential visit sees the organisation touch base with its 19 branches situated around the country. The aim is to bring the institution closer to its members in an attempt to realign and better focus its efforts to meet the expectations and needs of all its members.

This 4 day tour of the Eastern Cape, which comprised of the Algoa (Port Elizabeth) and Amathole (East London) branches saw the presidential delegation led by SAICE President Stanford Mkhacane and CEO Manglin Pillay consult a total of seven vested stakeholders, encompassing all spheres of industry, at which civil engineering professionals and SAICE membership are based. This included educational institutions, parastatals and private companies.

From the visit it was evident that the civil engineering profession faces immense challenges irrespective of the sphere of industry in which they were situated. Another point which materialised was how all these problems seemed to feed off each other. Companies repeatedly expressed their concern with the decrease of quality graduates from institutions of higher learning. At the same time they were very interested in engaging in the development of undergraduate and graduate students provided that their needs were looked after in terms of incentives.

Universities on the other hand indicated that they were seriously under-resourced and were unable to offer industry sufficient incentives to increase interest amongst industry professionals to service institutions of higher learning. It is apparent from this issue alone that the problems faced are complex and require integrated solutions.

A large percentage of members in all sectors of the industry in the Eastern Cape region (including both the Amathole and Algoa branches) indicated their concern with the lack of SAICE’s visibility at local level. As a result of this low visibility and lack of effective communication, a belief had materialised amongst some members that SAICE wasn’t influential enough and therefore is ineffective. The need to revitalise local branches was a recurring point in all interactions. There was a further need for the industry to partner together in order to address its own issues.

The industry needs to take charge of their situation as trained problem solvers to negotiate and influence change for the betterment of their profession. What was encouraging was the diversity across industry who expressed their willingness to partner with other members and SAICE to effect change using the minimal resources and influence they each had. There was a very real need expressed to move towards a more solution focused approach to industry problems as opposed to exclusively dwelling on problems. The most prominent realisation that emerged from this leg of the visit was that SAICE exists through its members, and that without their involvement and active participation SAICE doesn’t exist. 

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