Unplanned Shutdown is an Insult to Professionals

As engineers, technologists, and technicians, we need to register with ECSA – why? 

By Johan Maartens (Pr. Eng.), CEO of SAIMC

Previously I wrote about companies caught off guard by needing to understand the legislation around professional engineering practitioners in their employment and understanding the responsibilities placed on these employers.

Engineers, technologists, and engineers are now regulated to a greater extent than in the past when all that was required was a certificate on the wall. Now they must have relevant experience in the field in which they operate.

But what does ECSA registration have to do with it? “What does ECSA know about my business”? “I have been in this business now for many years. Why should I expose myself to ECSA, who knows nothing about my job, and ask them to register me as a professional”? “What if the person doing the assessment does not understand my work or does not like how I documented my reports or for some other strange reason”?

There are a few incorrect assumptions in this argument:

ECSA does not do assessments. They train professionals in the relevant industry to do the reviews. Therefore it is critical that those engineers, technologists, and technicians with experience in Mechatronic Devices, Factory Automation, and Process Automation contact ECSA and register to be trained as assessors. This assures that there are more experienced professionals in their field to be trained and to review the applicants.

The assessments take place in three groups of three people each. The first group of three will individually review the applicant’s documents and make recommendations. None of these three know who the others are because the reports are sent to each person individually by e-mail.

The second round consists of three others who receive all the applicant’s information and recommendations from the first three reviewers. This could be “probe for more information during the interview,” etc.

Then, the third round of three does the final review. Once again, they are new assessors who did not communicate with the first six apart from reading the reports and their feedback.

Some professionals have 30 years of experience, but it could be one year of experience repeated thirty times. The interviewers’ task is to assess whether the applicants have sufficient experience to be “let loose” on the public.

“Unplanned shutdown” has become a household name. Among professionals, “unplanned shutdowns” could cost you your job. It is an insult to you and your team. How many engineers, technologists, and technicians have the knowledge and experience to ensure that “unplanned shutdowns” never become household names? The public should not even know this term; it embarrasses the whole organization.

Bad service delivery and unplanned shutdowns are two of the reasons why a piece of paper against a wall in a nice frame no longer cuts it. No amount of empowerment or years in the industry will alone qualify a person as a registered professional.

In the past, every tom, dick, and harry called themselves “engineers” or “technicians”. These times have now passed. Professional Engineer Tom Pr. Eng., Professional Engineering Technologist Dick Pr.Tech.Eng., and Professional Engineering Technician Harry Pr. Techni Eng. will now service the industry.

Becoming a professional brings enormous responsibilities to the individual and considerable benefits to the public. You now have a leg to stand on if you encounter “unplanned breakages” or bad service and suspect unethical behaviour. Complaints can be lodged with ECSA, a statutory professional regulatory body established in terms of Section 2 of the Engineering Profession Act No. 46 of 2000 (“the Act”). ECSA operates within the ambit of the Built Environment Profession.

No, I am not an employee of ECSA. I was not paid to provide this letter, nor was I asked by ECSA to place it. I am one of those individuals who have seen the incredible feats of the engineering profession, such as Sasol, South African Railways, etc. Then I saw how the engineering profession come into disrepute due to political interference, criminal behaviour, incompetence, lack of experience, and terrible attitudes.

It is time to change the tide. Certificates can no longer buy people positions, and neither can their race. It is now a question of “show me the money, honey” – We want to see valid, applicable experience.

Industry leaders, by appointing professionally registered people, you have a person that was interviewed by at least nine other people in their engineering discipline. But you need to know your responsibility.

You need them to go to exhibitions such as Electra Mining and the Africa Automation and Technology Fair. Here they can see the latest equipment, talk to professionals about technical problems they are battling with, and obtain CPD points that they need to remain registered.

It is an absolute embarrassment to hear that engineering managers know so little about their discipline that they force their employees to take leave for these events and be members of their voluntary associations where they can continue their learning experience to benefit their industry. This is a wake-up call for engineering managers, and I am not asking on behalf of a friend, as a good friend said in a letter to the President.

For supporting information and documentation, visit www.ecsa.co.za or www.saimc.co.za, and direct any queries to the contact details published on the websites.

To visit Africa Automation and Technology Fair between 9 and 11 May 2023 at Gallagher Estate, please register here:  https://aatf.showhub.live/