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The Future
Elna Fourie
Elna Fourie

Chapter Nine of the National Development Plan (NDP) outlines educational objectives that must be achieved by 2030 if South Africa is to succeed as a nation.

In its introduction, the chapter asserts that: "Education, training and innovation are central to South Africa's long-term development. They are core elements in eliminating poverty and reducing inequality, and the foundations of an equal society. Foundational skills in areas such as mathematics, science, language, the arts and ethics are essential components of a good education system. Lifelong learning and work experience improves productivity, enabling a virtuous cycle that grows the economy."

According to the NDP, if we as a nation are to overcome the legacy of apartheid and previously – and some would argue, currently – disadvantaged communities, it is essential that everyone has access to education at a high standard, regardless of who they are and where they live.

The NDP's vision for education and training is to ensure that all children have the benefit of a high-quality education – especially in languages, maths and science.

The NDP further asserts that, in addition to universities playing a key role to developing a nation, other organisations such as science councils, non-governmental and privately funded research institutes, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the private sector and government departments have also become sites of new knowledge production and application.

In taking heed of this call, SANRAL, as a state-owned company and a key partner in realising the NDP's vision, has an ongoing commitment and programmes on research and education, training young people with skills that are much needed for the South African economy.

Our commitment to identify and nurture the skills of the next generation of engineers and scientists is reflected through our ongoing programmes that seek to invest in research and education and this is well documented.

We continue to strengthen our partnerships with institutions of higher education and training as part of our efforts to promote interest among young people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

More recently, during August 2017, SANRAL hosted a career development convention for young learners in Port Elizabeth. Called Indlela Yam, My Way, the convention seeks to promote career development for learners and to expose them to the various professions the roads and transport industries.

The various investments in research and education SANRAL has made over the past 20 years, have grown year after year. These affirm the assertion that SANRAL is indeed preparing our youth for life and will continue to do so for many years to come!

Of course, as we celebrate Nelson Mandela, the founding President of our democracy, who would have turned a 100 this year if he had not met his demise, we are reminded of his commitment and dedication to the education of our young people.

He summed this up aptly when he said: "Young people must take it upon themselves to ensure that they receive the highest education possible so that they can represent us well in future as future leaders".

At SANRAL we are passionate and committed towards making long-lasting investments into the youth as well as guaranteeing their bright future.

Elna Fourie is the Development Planner of SANRAL

Bridging the GAP

The cost of tertiary education is an issue that is dominating public debate in South Africa. As a responsible corporate citizen, SANRAL has to take this into account when making decisions on the support it offers to bursary students. Skills development is identified as a priority in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 – the broad framework that defines the country's developmental trajectory. The NDP highlights the reality that future investment in critical infrastructure is highly dependent on the ability of the tertiary education sector to train skilled engineers, artisans and technicians.

SANRAL is responding to this call through its skills development and financial support of engineering students. This is a sector in which South Africa is experiencing critical shortages. Because the agency will play a defining role in the rollout of South Africa's future infrastructure programme, it is of vital importance that the organisation attract and train some of the brightest students in the country and then manage their careers within SANRAL. Since the inception of its bursary programme in 2007, the agency has been very successful in identifying exceptional students – especially from previously disadvantaged communities.

There is also a specific focus on supporting the education of women in the civil engineering and built environment sectors – areas from which they were excluded in the past. In 2016, SANRAL awarded 122 bursaries to students at nine universities. This investment (more than R7.5m) includes bursaries for 14 postgraduate students who are conducting ground-breaking research in infrastructure development.

The bursaries offered by the national roads agency cover more than just tuition fees. They include stipends, books and educational material.

Bridging The Gap Stats

To prepare the students for professional careers, SANRAL bursary holders are offered vacation jobs to familiarise themselves with the work environment. Bursary holders are also mentored and provided with assistance on practical projects, if required, during their studies. SANRAL offers work-integrated learning opportunities in conjunction with contractors and consultants working on its projects. This offers a platform for interns to use the workplace as an active learning environment and assists students in obtaining the practical experience they require to complete their qualifications.

In terms of a performance agreement between SANRAL and the Minister of Transport, the number of internships offered should be equal to 10% of the staff complement. However, because of the high demand for practical experience within the engineering fields, SANRAL is exceeding this target and offers internship opportunities equivalent to 44% of its staff complement. SANRAL's bursary programme is making a tangible contribution to closing the skills gap in South Africa.

Innovation and Smart technology
- the next chapter in our road

Smart technology and the road user can no longer be separate concepts. Road users harness smart technology on their devices, in their vehicles, in their offices and in their homes. It therefore stands to reason that this technology should be integrated into the travel experience during their everyday commutes as well. This is ultimately where the world is headed and South Africa should be no different.

In rising to the challenge of rapidly evolving smart road technologies and global innovation, SANRAL, during the 2016/17 financial year, established the Technical Innovation Hub (TIH) which is driven from the Western Region Office in Cape Town.

Although not a physical space, the TIH can be likened to a think tank of young intellectuals, mentored by senior professional engineers, and inspired by the possibilities that exist when technology is harnessed to improve our lives and promote progressive development in transport.

SANRAL had, several years ago, begun investing in bursaries for candidates showing interest in engineering disciplines other than civil engineering, which is most commonly associated with roads and transportation infrastructure. These other engineering disciplines include electrical and electronic, mechatronic (combined mechanical and electronic), and computer engineering, and are now more than ever impacting on roads, transportation and mobility specifically.

While advancement in road user technology seems predominantly geared at motorists, it is important to note that in South Africa, and particularly in the Western Cape, pedestrians make up a massive component of road users. Therein lies a major driver of road safety through use of technology. Engineers with postgraduate studies in research topics relevant to transportation technology advancements, such as automated pedestrian detection and drone applications, play a major role in how we apply technology in saving lives, particularly in the face of preventable pedestrian fatalities year-on-year. The technology already exists – SANRAL is now well positioned to embrace it to the benefit of all road users.

In our commitment to contributing to the development of South Africa's knowledge economy, SANRAL appreciates the importance of collaboration, skills transfer and knowledge sharing. Economists the world over agree that economic growth is becoming increasingly reliant on the development of intellectual capital – which is ultimately the development of a country's knowledge economy.

One such very important collaboration is a project with Stellenbosch University's Smart Mobility Laboratory. The objective of this project is to test the use of floating car data, such as blue-tooth and other vehicle tracking devices in decision making. Increasing and expanding our knowledge in this field will lead to improvements in traffic analyses, monitoring of traffic trends, understanding pedestrian behaviour and thought patterns, as well as the identification of congestion and speed violation hotspots.

While technology may aid in how we respond to congestion, these are long-term interventions. In the interim, there needs to be an element of citizen responsibility about how and when we travel. So travel demand management needs to enter the discussion and if we are to really get maximum value from our roads network, we as citizens need to manage the demand and the use of resources, in much the same way as it applies to electricity and water.

SANRAL remains committed to our mandate to finance, improve, manage and maintain the national road network and through the incorporation of smart technology, we aim to take South Africa beyond roads as we know it.

Randall Cable and Kobus van der Walt

Developing and training young engineers

The Technical Excellence Academy (TEA) provides mentorship and practical training in road and bridge design for graduate candidate engineers. The academy provides a structured training programme aimed at equipping the graduate engineers with the necessary skills and knowledge in the aspects of road design, that they need to complete the required phase of experiential training as part of registration in one of the professional categories with the Engineering Council for South Africa (ECSA), within an accelerated timeframe.

An additional part of the programme includes training at the SANRAL accredited materials testing laboratory in Port Elizabeth, where specialised test methods and analysis of materials used in the construction of roads is conducted. This training programme was introduced to equip candidates with the necessary skills and competencies to register as professionals with the ECSA within a five-year timeframe.

It provides intensive post-graduate training, mentorship and coaching, but also ensures each individual has been exposed to a broad variety of disciplines.

The funding for the Technical Excellence Academy is provided for entirely by SANRAL. All training is offered at no cost to candidates at the academy, with SANRAL providing the full complement of training requirements, including specialised mentorship and supervision by qualified, trained and dedicated mentors, hardware, software, training courses as well as workstations for each candidate.

Graduates starting their careers in the organisation benefit from the dedicated mentorship and experience with design projects to fast-track their skills development. This enables each candidate to progressively take on more responsibility until they are able to work independently.

The fields of training include geometric, pavement and drainage design; hydrological analysis; economic evaluations; and supply chain processes in procurement of consulting and contracting engineers. The engineering training is executed by completion of designs of actual construction projects of the Southern Region road network, under the guidance of external mentors knowledgeable in the various disciplines, as well as SANRAL Project Managers.

SANRAL established the TEA in 2014, starting with three engineering graduates who completed their civil engineering studies under a SANRAL bursary. This number has since grown to 32 graduates. Candidates who have completed a minimum of a National Diploma in Civil Engineering may contact the TEA to enquire on the placement process. SANRAL is able to place candidates temporarily on construction sites for further experiential learning. In addition, SANRAL encourages female graduates to join the academy. In 2017, 10 of the 27 graduates at the academy were women.

Ivan Ellis is a mentor at the Technical Excellence Academy

SANRAL candidate engineer passionate about career choice

Before selecting a career, it is advisable to first and foremost be passionate, intrigued and well informed about you career choice," said Serisha Sukraj, a candidate engineer at SANRAL Southern Region's (SR) Technical Excellence Academy (TEA).

Serisha, 24, who completed her BSc Honours in Civil Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2016, joined the SANRAL SR TEA in March last year.

"Reflecting on the past few months, I can undoubtedly say I have gained much experience and training relating to the project manager role, road design, procurement and research. I fully believe that the SANRAL training programme is one of the best, and will help achieve my goal of registering with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) as a Professional Engineer," she said.

SANRAL provides mentorship and practical training in road and bridge design for graduate candidate engineers. This training programme was introduced to equip candidates with the necessary skills and competencies to register as professionals with the ECSA within a five-year timeframe.

"Since the beginning of high school, I have always been interested in engineering in general, so much so that I wanted to take up Engineering Graphics and Design as one of my final subjects. However, being at an all-girls high school, it was unfortunately not offered. Nonetheless, I enjoyed mathematics and physical science, and I knew that civil engineering would be a fulfilling career choice for me in terms of my interests, skills and the style of work environment that I wanted to be exposed to.

"Change is inevitable, and I knew that as a civil engineer I could facilitate change and help to make a positive impact to the country's development, economy and environment," she said.

"I heard about the SANRAL bursary and their five-year training programme from the media and internet. Being the eldest sibling in my family, I wanted to try to assist my family by getting a bursary for my final year of study. I applied, hoping not only to achieve financial aid, but to be exposed and train under SANRAL."

Serisha Sukraj – SANRAL engineer candidate


In an effort to bridge the crippling deficit of engineering skills, SANRAL is providing graduates with invaluable work-integrated learning opportunities.

Several graduate engineers from various tertiary institutions across South Africa have been granted a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity by being selected for SANRAL's rapidly growing internship programme.

Due to the high demand for practical experience in 2016/17, a total of 304 internships were created. A whopping 96% of these interns were African and 40% female, underscoring the affirmative nature of the programme.

Apart from the candidates receiving valuable practical work experience in a dynamic environment, the initiative is also part of SANRAL's commitment to training and growing South Africa's pipeline of future engineers who will design, build and maintain the country's road infrastructure.

In collaboration with the contractors and consultants working on SANRAL projects, the internship programme is designed to assist engineering students to fulfil the practical work experience requirements of their National Diploma.

To this end, there has been a significant increase in the number of internships facilitated by SANRAL since the programme was launched in 2007 – from 42 to 304 in 2016/17.

The internship programme is SANRAL's way of providing skilled capacity in our communities while also driving social and economic transformation.

SANRAL has also structured a five-year training programme for candidate engineers. Eighteen months are devoted to design experience and this component must be completed at the Technical Excellence Academy in Port Elizabeth.

The training programme has been devised to meet ECSA requirements. The aim is to provide candidate engineers with experience that will enable them to register as professional engineers.


SANRAL Internship Programme Coverage

Ayanda reaches for the stars with
SANRAL’s helping hand

Ayandamabhaca MacDonald Chagwe – a young engineer at the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) – is convinced that a SANRAL bursary has been his ticket to the flourishing civil engineering career he had always dreamed of.

As an award recipient of a SANRAL bursary in 2006, he was extremely grateful for the opportunity to concentrate fully on his studies without having to worry about how these would be funded.

The 33-year old obtained his BSc Civil Engineering degree at the University of Cape Town in 2011. Looking back, he said that without this bursary, he would have found himself knocking on various doors for a student loan.

"After qualifying, I was commissioned to Harding on KwaZulu-Natal's South Coast for experiential training where district roads D911 and D912 were being upgraded through labour-intensive construction methods and low-level crossings were being developed.

"In line with government's objective to encourage entrepreneurship, SANRAL further equipped several SMMEs with occupational health and safety skills and construction management skills to enable them to fully participate in opportunities presented by the construction sector," said Ayanda.

The SANRAL Technical Excellence Academy in Port Elizabeth exposed him to hands-on design experience as he worked on various projects in the Eastern Cape under the mentorship of experienced and professional engineers.

"SANRAL is one of the leading organisations in the construction industry with an exceptional reputation.

"We do our own research and develop our own standards which are on par with international standards. Exposure to the most interesting and diverse technologies in the built environment makes for a most rewarding experience," said Ayanda. "I am currently managing various interesting projects in the Eastern Region, such as a project from Lynnfield Park to Ashburton in Pietermaritzburg which forms part of the upgrading of the N3 corridor.

"SANRAL, please continue to support scholars and university students, especially youth from disadvantaged backgrounds."

He is hopeful for the continued support and encouragement from SANRAL to further his studies in pavement engineering to realise his goal of becoming a qualified Project Manager.

Fulufhelo builds a career out of a passion for the outdoors

While building bridges and developing roads are not everybody's cup of tea, Fulufhelo Luruli, 27, was determined to turn her desire to work outdoors into a professional career in civil engineering.

A bursary from SANRAL enabled her to successfully complete a BSc Civil Engineering degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

"The construction of roads, low-level crossings and bridges fascinates me. My passion for mathematics and science steered me towards a career in civil engineering which requires a great amount of calculation," said Luruli.

Her highlight of being a SANRAL graduate was the time she spent with global engineering company, HATCH, where she received invaluable design and site experience and attended insightful engineering courses.

She is currently commissioned at the Hammarsdale Interchange site midway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg where she has been an assistant resident engineer for the past year.

She saluted her resident engineer, Ian Jackson, who she says contributes immensely to her understanding of the responsibilities of managing a construction site while also exposing her to the practical side of engineering.

Her parents are her biggest role models, and she credits them for encouraging her to chase after a career she strongly desired.

She said being a female in a male-dominated industry was challenging, but she was quickly able to adapt.

Fulufhelo believes her independence as a woman can be attributed to SANRAL's excellent mentorship programme which is helping to further her Master's and achieve professional engineer status.

Her success is testimony to the fact that, without SANRAL's bursary support, yet another capable graduate would have had to explore alternative options to fund her studies. She said the bursary had relieved her parents of a serious financial strain.

"Thank you SANRAL for kick-starting my career with a bursary and exposing me to the most interesting construction projects which will go a long way in developing my skills as an engineer."

With her growing skills and strong work ethic, Fulufhelo is determined to practise as a registered engineer and continue her journey with SANRAL.


Our Journey
SANRAL 2030 Strategy

The road well travelled

To build roads to globally recognised standards takes a talented workforce. SANRAL is acutely aware of this. That is why it focuses so strongly on education and research. It constantly upgrades the technologies it uses and encourages its employees to continue their studies.

But it has a wider purpose with this focus. Externally it supports Chairs at universities to boost the educational opportunities of those who want to study road infrastructure and also supports the study of maths and science at school level. In addition, it provides bursaries and scholarships to enable high achievers across the board to further possible careers in science-related directions.

SANRAL’s need is also the country’s need - to get more students to study maths and science and to do better in them, move on to university and, among other possibilities, become engineers, and preferably civil engineers. Because of this wider need, SANRAL’s educational assistance is not solely directed to its own requirements. It supports more learners and students than it can employ. So its efforts enhance the pool of bright people in the wider field of science in the country.

It is a route that the agency hopes other institutions will follow - not only in the public sector but also private companies. It is a simple truth that the country, for whatever reason, does not deliver the quality of education that a modern economy needs. There is a dire need - from a selfish but also a national perspective – for organisations to step in and boost educational opportunities.

SANRAL is proud of the effective way it uses its existing in-house talent pool, develops it consistently and builds a future reserve in schools and universities – while taking account of the country’s needs.