Mentoring graduate engineers

Professional mentor Ivan Ellis explains how SANRAL’s Training Excellence Academy fast-tracks engineering careers.

Ivan Ellis said that TEA provides intensive postgraduate training, mentorship and coaching, but it also ensures that each candidate engineer has been exposed to a broad variety of disciplines.

The Training Excellence Academy run by the South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) equips graduate engineers with professional skills and real-world knowledge.

What is SANRAL’s Training Excellence Academy (TEA)?

The academy provides mentorship and practical training in road and bridge design for graduate engineers.

The training programme is a structured one. It is an accelerated course to equip graduate engineers with the professional skills and real-world knowledge in road design that will enable them to complete the experiential training required to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa.

The programme includes training at the SANRAL materials testing lab in Port Elizabeth, where specialised testing and analysis of road construction materials are conducted.

When was the academy established?

The academy was started in 2014.

What is the value of the TEA?

This training programme was introduced to equip candidates with the competencies to register as professionals with the Engineering Council of South Africa within five years. It provides intensive postgraduate training, mentorship and coaching, but it also ensures that each candidate engineer has been exposed to a broad variety of disciplines.

The funding for the training academy is provided entirely by SANRAL. All training is offered at no cost to the candidates at the academy, with SANRAL providing a full complement of training requirements, including specialised mentorship and supervision by qualified, trained and dedicated mentors, hardware, software, training courses and 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 means each candidate progressively takes on more responsibility until they are able to work independently.

How can engineering graduates enrol?

Candidates who have completed a minimum of a National Diploma in Civil Engineering may contact the academy to enquire about the placement process.

The key criterion is a completed national diploma or degree in civil engineering.

How long and what form does the training take?

The programme lasts between 12 and 18 months, depending on the candidates’ previous field experience. Once they have finished the programme, participants begin on construction sites, or gain additional experience on SANRAL projects around the country.

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 involves completing designs of actual construction projects on the Southern Region road network – under the guidance of external mentors who are knowledgeable in various disciplines, as well as SANRAL Project Managers.

Knowledge-sharing sessions are held weekly, where participants are exposed to specialist presentations on various topical issues in the South African context. Specialised training courses in the required fields of design, such as Rubicon and Civil Designer, are also presented to all candidates.

Do graduates receive a formal qualification after training?

At the moment, there is no formal qualification or National Qualifications Framework alignment, as the academy is not registered as a formal training institute. However, the academy is able to provide a certificate of attendance and report of actual work completed.

Engineering has been a male dominated profession. Is the academy changing this?

SANRAL heartily encourages female graduates to join the academy. This year, 10 of the 27 graduates at the academy are women.

Where can graduates get more information?

They can contact Hawa Abdullah at the SANRAL Southern Region offices via email on