Johannesburg - Engineers around the world who have been retrenched due to the global financial crisis should be brought to South Africa, the president of Consulting Engineers SA (Cesa) Felix Fongoqa said in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
"The International Federation of Consulting Engineers (Fidic) has indicated that globally the skills shortage crisis is no longer a major factor and that companies are retrenching engineers," Fongoqa said.
This might be "an opportunity to attract those skills back to South Africa", he said.
However, the move would require co-operation between government and industry, Fongoqa said.
He said the government's infrastructure development plans would "essentially keep the consulting engineering industry on track in these tough times".
Cesa welcomed the budget news that spend on infrastructure would be close to R800bn over the next three years and found it encouraging that government had prioritised Eskom, housing, water and sanitation and the Expanded Public Works Programme.
Fongoqa said Cesa planned to partner with the government in ensuring that its investment objectives were realised.
"Engineers are innovators that can rise to the challenge of ensuring that their designs allow for maximum use of labour during construction and that the ideal of sustainable development is achieved."
Fongoqa was, however, concerned about the negative consequences of not maintaining existing infrastructure, mostly in the local government sphere and in particular the dysfunction of some municipal water and waste water treatment works around the country.
Referring to Cesa's strategic goals for 2009/10, he said one of the organisation's aims was to increasingly influence decision-making and policies at the highest level via regular contact with relevant ministers and director generals.
Another objective was to promote the concept of sustainable development.
Fongoqa said Cesa could "make a difference" by contributing significantly towards reducing South Africa's carbon footprint and embracing a sustainable approach to the provision, use and maintenance of infrastructure.
Cesa had established a task team to develop a policy framework in this regard and would ensure that activities were aligned to international best practice.
Fongoqa said Cesa also planned to continue its work aimed at providing an effective mechanism to accelerate service delivery in the Public Sector by assisting with the re-capacitation of client entities.
"To date Cesa has undertaken a number of successful projects in this regard leading to the creation of the Project Development and Facilitation Alliance (PDFA) which is a Section 21 company.
"A memorandum of understating has been prepared which will enable Cesa to roll this programme out to other municipalities."
Associated with this initiative, Cesa would be rolling out a training schedule through its School of Consulting Engineering to educate decision-makers in infrastructure lifecycle management, Fongoqa said.
Furthermore, Cesa's Young Professionals Forum would continue to be a key player in rolling out the organisation's strategy of promoting engineering as a career of choice among the country's top learners.
The forum would also assist in creating structured training and mentoring programmes for the industry.
Cesa would "continue to engage with the Engineering Council of South Africa (Ecsa) in order to ensure that engineering education, particularly at technikons, is in line with industry needs."
Fongoqa said Cesa would also interact with universities and technikons to influence the quality and appropriateness of engineering education.
A major focus this year for Cesa was to reduce the propensity for crime and corruption which was undermining the construction industry.
Fongoqa said the organisation planned to achieve this through anti-crime initiatives including the organisation of an anti-corruption and business integrity indaba to be held later this year.
"Cesa has adopted a zero tolerance approach to all forms of corruption and lack of integrity."
Turning to the Construction Industry Charter, he said that Cesa was hopeful that it would be promulgated shortly.
Cesa was gearing up to support the roll-out process so that both members and clients adopted the charter for the good of transformation in the industry.