Civil engineer graduates join SANRAL’s training academy

A new crop of civil engineering graduates have joined SANRAL’s Training Excellence Academy (TEA) in Port Elizabeth.

Ivan Ellis, Training Academy mentor and professional civil engineer (centre), Theo Johannes, experienced designer of rural and urban roads and services (back, left) and newly appointed TEA mentor Ivor Burke, welcomed the newly appointed TEA candidates, from left, Siphesile Mthembu, Thapelo Ramaano, Gasan Jacobs, Nokwanda Phenyane, Morena Moloi, Shakeel Chicktay and Thando Mthembu.

The South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) has welcomed new civil engineering recruits to its Training Excellence Academy (TEA) in Port Elizabeth.

Two of the seven candidates have already worked on-site on SANRAL projects in the Western and Northern Regions but will now spend time at the TEA honing their design skills.

The remaining five, recent university graduates, will start their training in the SANRAL materials testing laboratory. This laboratory enables SANRAL to test the properties of construction materials used in road maintenance activities as well as in the development and upgrading of Eastern Cape’s national roads.

Ivan Ellis, TEA mentor and professional civil engineer, said: “While the candidates all graduated from university, this is where they will complete their practical skills training and then be able to register as fully-fledged professionals with the Engineering Council of South Africa.

“At the TEA the candidates get the opportunity to participate in a structured training programme under the supervision of experienced professional civil engineers.”

TEA recruits

Shakeel Chicktay, originally from Cape Town, graduated from the University of Cape Town in 2015 with his BSc Engineering Civil degree.  His interest in civil engineering started when he was in high school.

Before joining the TEA, Chicktay joined SANRAL in 2016 as a candidate engineer and worked on-site as an assistant resident engineer in Malmesbury, working on the N7 road upgrade project.

“If I didn’t get the bursary, I would have had to make use of study loans to pay for my studies. The financial stability of having a bursary has allowed me to focus on my studies and not worry about getting a second job,” he said.

Morena Moloi, a former SANRAL bursary and scholarship recipient, joined SANRAL in Polokwane as a junior site engineer from February 2016 until January 2017. Thereafter he worked as an assistant resident engineer from January 2017 until January 2018 in Hendrina, Mpumalanga.

“I wanted to be a doctor at first but then I learned more about SANRAL and the work they do and what civil engineering is about,” he said.

Moloi earned the SANRAL scholarship in high school due to his academic marks.

“My matric year was my best year in high school.  Learners must learn to enjoy being at school but know that they have to find the balance between having a social life, studies and family time,” he said.

Both Chicktay and Moloi are completing their design training, after which they will receive training at SANRAL’s laboratory.

Nokwanda Phenyane is the first graduate in her family.  In 2017, she obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand.

“While learning about road design at university, my lecturer showed us examples of SANRAL’s pavement designs.  I did more research on SANRAL and the work they do, and I was really amazed and knew I wanted to be a part of this company.”

“Being passionate about civil engineering motivated me to work hard at university and I encourage high school learners to pursue career paths they are passionate about,’’ she added.

The roots of TEA

SANRAL established 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 including nine from the Eastern Cape Department of Transport who have been deployed at the TEA to gain experience in road infrastructure design and planning.

In an industry that has always been male dominated, Ellis said nine of the 32 candidates are female.

The Candidate Training Masterplan was designed to enable candidates to meet the expectations and outcomes of the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).  Participants undergo intensive training in the investigation and design aspects of projects under SANRAL’s continuous national road programme of works.

The masterplan covers all disciplines of road engineering, but is primarily focused on geometric design, traffic analysis and capacity, materials investigation and utilisation, pavement and materials evaluations and design, and storm water and sub-surface drainage.