Skills development

Increased spending on expertise shortage rockets

Urgent demand for skilled professionals
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Increased emphasis by Government on infrastructure investment in South Africa is prioritising the development of urgent skills in the project management arena. This year alone Government’s Budget Review listed 43 major infrastructure projects in its pipeline, adding up to R3.2-trillion in expenditure.  
Over the medium term expenditure framework period ahead, Government’s approved and budgeted infrastructure plans amount to R845 billion, of which just under R300 billion is in the energy sector and R262 billion in transport and logistics projects.
“Government strategies regarding infrastructure can only become reality when sound project management principles are implemented. If we want to be successful in the anticipated number of infrastructure projects, substantial investment has to be made in delivering registered professionals to this market,” says Mr MC Botha, Executive: Centre for Project Management Intelligence at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.   
Botha says that in the public sector – where the ‘business’ is service delivery – slow progress with capital projects is responsible for major frustration among consumers, which is apparent with the large number of protest marches currently held.
“A recent report to parliament stated categorically that service delivery by the public sector is fundamentally handicapped by a shortage of planners and engineers with the ability to prepare suitable concept specifications and tenders for projects, as well as by poor capital expenditure planning and poorly managed procurement channel processes,” argues Botha.
Botha says the number of registered Professional Civil Engineers in South Africa has not shown any large increase since 2005 and is a serious cause for concern. “Very few professionals enter the market, which is a grave concern.”   
South Africa’s unemployment figures are presently at 24.9% and according to Botha, all the suggested infrastructure projects need to focus on skills development in order to address sustainable job creation and the need for professionals in the sector. 
“It should become a standard and integral element of Government projects that learning institutions participate in projects to ensure that skills enhancement is properly applied and managed from the perspective of entrepreneurial project management.” 
Botha believes that project management on its own is merely a set of tools and techniques, but the link must be made to leadership and business strategy. “When the link is made, project management becomes the ideal, structured vehicle to stream strategic objectives and execute them.”
The University of Stellenbosch Business School recently announced its Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management, which will incorporate project management skills learning and business strategy.  
“We have seen that infrastructure projects can play an important role in creating a systems approach to the training and development of entrepreneurs.  Thus, the new Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management will allow professionals to not only attain technical skills, but with its business and strategic output, will also school individuals in an entrepreneurial mind-set,” says Botha. 
The focus of the new Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management will allow for sustainable SMME start-up opportunities within well-planned entrepreneurial project management, as well as planning and execution of mega projects. 
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