Employers whose business depends on imported engineering skills must submit their comments on the new draft Critical Skills List no later than 16h00 on 31st March 2021.
So says Marisa Jacobs, MD of Xpatweb, the only private company invited to participate in the development of the proposed List.
“Holders of critical skills visas based on the previous CSL will be unable to renew them if their skill is discarded from the new list, and their organisations will be required to follow are more lightly visa process where the resource is required beyond their current visa validity period,” she says.
“The Covid pandemic has in a number of cases impacted projects which will mean that resources may be required beyond the initial assignment period,” Jacobs adds.
While certain engineering roles appear on the list, others in high demand have not been included.
Scarce engineering skills
Industry experts agree that various engineering skills are in short supply locally, often in specialised fields.
Sumaya Hoosen, Human Capital & Skills Development Executive at the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA), says absent from the List are mechanical and electrical design engineers, quality systems engineers, robotics and production engineers, and production and process control engineers and technologists.
“At an intermediate level, specialist technicians across several disciplines remain in short or critically scarce supply,” she says. These include lift; heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and generator repairs; non-destructive testing; and process control technicians, as well as additive manufacturing technologists, environmental specialists, and supply and distribution specialists.
Millicent Kabwe, acting Executive: Strategic Services at the Engineering Council of South Africa points out that while the List is generally comprehensive, specialisations cannot be overlooked. “ECSA accreditation clearly states that professionals can only practice in their field of competence,” she says.
Civil engineers, for example, can specialise in roads, traffic and transportation, hydraulics, water and sanitation, structural or geological disciplines. Experts in one area are not considered competent in another.
Kabwe also notes that chemical engineers and refrigeration and air conditioning artisans have been neglected. Interestingly, Xpatweb’s survey data echoes this sentiment showing that 13% of respondents who struggle to recruit engineers, also say that chemical engineers are in high demand.
“The state of the Chemical Industry in South Africa has not shown any significant growth in the last decade,” she says.
In addition, Kabwe says that a number of roles in the automation instrumentation mechatronics field should have been included in the draft List.
“The fact that mechatronics technician was the only mechatronics professional identified shows that the current List is only concerned with maintaining equipment from international suppliers and not developing new technologies,” she observes.
Hoosen agrees. “The List is not progressive enough to regard technological developments in the industry,” she says.
Xpatweb’s latest survey reveals that shortages occur predominantly in production and manufacturing, architecture, mining, education and libraries, and healthcare. In these arenas, the specific engineering roles were mechanical, maintenance, chemical, mining, industrial, nuclear and automation engineers.
“Preliminary results show that 18% of participants struggle to recruit engineers,” reports Jacobs. At the same time, 97% of respondents with an engineering skills shortage indicate that ongoing access to these skills is vital to their business’s continued operational success.
Education and experience
Although engineering graduates are available in South Africa, employers seek both good education and ample experience to protect the integrity of their projects.
Xpatweb’s survey data shows that 40% of respondents require their engineers to hold an advanced diploma-level education, whereas 12% demand a Master’s degree.
13% require one to three years experience, 37% want three to five years experience, and 46% need five years or more experience.
Succession planning and skills transfer
Encouragingly, 81% of survey participants indicated that using expatriate professionals to facilitate succession planning and skills transfer is a top priority for their business.
“Companies actually prefer local engineers but need employees with the right experience,” says Jacobs. “Hiring expatriates provides mentoring opportunities while meeting that condition.”
Hoosen states that the most important benefit of hiring foreign engineers needs to be in the development of local competence and expertise in these much needed disciplines.
Kabwe believes that the transfer of skills and knowledge to the country will lead to increased innovation, as well as other economic advantages, like keeping talent, business and taxes inside South Africa.
With only a few days left to make their needs heard, Jacobs urges employers to submit their comments on the draft Critical Skills List.
“After the deadline, the chances of recruiting foreign engineering roles not on the finalised List will drop dramatically,” she warns.
Jacobs also encourages employers to take Xpatweb’s Critical Skills Survey. “The fact that our data was used in developing the draft CSL is a testament to the quality of our research methodology, which promises invaluable insights to expatriate employers,” she says.
MEDIA CONTACT: Rosa-Mari Le Roux, 060 995 6277, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.atthatpoint.co.za
HOLISTIC EXPATRIATE SOLUTIONS
The Xpatweb group has been in existence for over 15 years and includes over 100 professionals, including immigration specialists, mobility practitioners, tax practitioners, attorneys, and chartered accountants. They offer holistic, client-centric, and fully compliant expatriate and work visa solutions. Clients can expect an exceptional end-to-end service that starts with an initial technical meeting to discuss any past challenges, a recommended optimal solution, and the creation of a roadmap and protocol for service delivery. They also offer an on-premises immigration audit service to confirm expatriate employees hold legally obtained, valid visas, and that their duties align with their visa conditions. In addition, their unique online immigration tracking system helps you to easily manage and track expatriate assignees across the globe, is fully customisable and dashboard-driven, and provides a secure repository for storing assignees’ documents.
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