To further the number of qualified graduates with practical experience in the industry, global engineering firm DRA, is launching a two-year graduate programme that will see the firm taking on eight graduates across several disciplines in the next year.
Louise Dercksen, Group Human Resources manager at DRA, says the group will hire graduates from each engineering discipline – mechanical, electrical, process and civil. “We have approached the universities, as well as a graduate recruitment agency, and the two-year programme will start this year and finish in 2019,” she says. Participating students had to send through a short CV together with their latest study results. They also had to go through an interview process and complete a psychometric test.
“We didn’t look solely at academic results. We’re looking for candidates who are keen to innovate, possess people skills and show potential in business acumen; all-round students who can add value to our company and the industry,” Dercksen says.
Phillip De Weerdt and Antonio Da Gama Texeira, two project engineers at DRA who recently completed their MBA studies, will be functioning as Project Sponsors for the two-year programme and will ensure its success. The graduates will also be appointed discipline-specific mentors to ensure their development in all required proficiencies of the program.
Dercksen says while the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) has a five-year practical experience requirement, students can use the two-year graduate programme towards their five-year ECSA requirement.
As DRA is a global engineering firm, the graduates also have the opportunity to learn from engineers across the world during their two-year experience at the DRA Johannesburg office. “There is a skills shortage in the broad engineering sector and DRA saw an opportunity to contribute towards developing talent within the industry,” Dercksen says.
The skills shortage is not limited to South Africa. According to Manpower Group’s annual talent shortage survey for 2016, engineers are ranked fourth out of the top ten difficult positions to fill due to lack of skills. The survey goes on to say that the four top reasons why it is hard to fill positions include:
• a lack of applicants – 64%;
• a lack of hard skills or technical competencies – 19%;
• a lack of experience – 19%; and
• a lack of soft skills (workplace experience) – 11%.
Dercksen says the DRA programme can help alleviate this. “During the programme, the students will be exposed to all elements of the work we do, going through a rotational programme. There will be ongoing evaluation of their performance as they work their way through the different engineering disciplines and also learn about cost control, budget management, quality control and the ins and outs of site work,” she says.