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​​The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) has embarked on a journey of transformation in order to ensure maximum efficiency in the delivery of its core mandate, and consequently improve its service to the engineering profession and the public at large.

In accordance with the Engineering Professions Act (Act 46 of 2000), the ECSA has as its core mandates the accreditation of engineering programmes, the registration of engineering professionals, and ensuring that registered professionals adhere to the Code of Conduct.

The fact that South Africa is a developing economy places the ECSA in a critical position as a key role player in providing well-equipped engineering professionals to render the necessary skills. The ECSA is aware of the salient challenges that are associated with its role in the national development agenda. Paramount among these is ensuring a critical mass of registered engineering professionals, whilst striving to meet the set equity targets.

Currently, South Africa has 1 engineer for every 3100 people, compared to Germany with 1 engineer for every 200 people. In countries like Japan, the UK and the USA, this ratio stands at about 1:310. Therefore South Africa needs to produce 10 times more engineers in order to compete favourably with developed economies.

In addition, according to the ECSA database, the current profile of registered engineering professionals is not balanced in terms of gender and race. There are approximately 34 000 registered professionals in the ECSA database, of which more than 14 800 are registered professional engineers, i.e. engineering professionals with a degree from a recognised university. Of this total, females constitute only 3%, whilst blacks comprise less than 12%.

In order to efficiently and equitably deliver on its mandate, the ECSA has to revisit its processes, systems, culture, infrastructure and even the legislation that governs it. While most of these interventions are already being addressed through the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) and the Transformation Task Team (TTT), working together will ensure the achievement of these interventions.

a) Processes

The depth and extent of processes that enable the ECSA to perform are largely confined to the following dimensions:

  • Evaluation of foreign qualifications

The ECSA has witnessed an increasing number of applicants with qualifications from institutions that are not signatories of the existing international agreements. Whilst the ECSA has a process in place that is dedicated to this purpose, it is currently undergoing improvements in order to efficiently deal with the large numbers.

  • Registration of candidates

The ECSA has realised the need to broaden its mandate beyond just registration by influencing the rate at which registration takes place by communicating the need and benefits of registration to undergraduates and academics. The ECSA will also use this avenue to understand and possibly address the low rate of conversion from candidate to professional status. If needs be, a dedicated research investigation may be mandatory in this regard, as there can be no sustainable solution without full comprehension of the problem.

  • Registration of professionals

The ECSA is aware that some applicants are not well informed of the registration requirements, which results in inadequate information being supplied by candidates during application for registration. This consequently leads to the rejection of the application; and resentment on the part of the applicant. The ECSA has resolved to communicate more efficiently and clearly with the applicants so as to minimise this situation.

Furthermore, the ECSA is exploring the possibility of establishing an Industry Forum that will enable better communication between the ECSA and employers, with the objective of assisting during the training and application period.

  • Discipline, accreditation of engineering programmes and Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Although the ECSA has identified these as critical processes, they are largely under control and any intervention will be aimed at improving the communication around these processes, rather than changing the current framework.

b) Systems

The ECSA is currently putting systems in place that are aimed at shortening the registration process, whilst making it more transparent to the applicant. This means the applicant will be able to interact directly with the system and know the extent of the registration process. The Information Technology (IT) framework is under reconstruction to deal specifically with this aspect.

In addition, the ECSA has constituted a committee with the objective of improving on the appeals procedure in event of rejected applications.

c) Culture

Transformation in the organisation also extends to the internal workings of the ECSA. The ECSA is committed to communicating on issues that affect the engineering profession, as well as the state and its organs. Through improved communication and visibility, the ECSA hopes to transform the organisation to one that serves all its publics.

d) Infrastructure

The ECSA has identified infrastructure as one of the key areas of focus, this should be understood in the context of the aforementioned systems. Consequently, infrastructure pertains mainly to full exploitation of existing technology, encompassing both hard- and software. We are therefore in the process of aligning our infrastructure with our information technology to ensure seamless processes

e) Legislation

The ECSA has embarked on a full participatory process with other engineering professions, through the Council for the Built Environment (CBE), to bring the concept of Identification of Engineering Work (IDoEW) to fruition. The implications of this exercise are far-reaching, as it would then be mandatory to be registered in order to perform engineering work.

The ECSA has identified the urgent need for fundamental and comprehensive transformation and has moved accordingly to realise its objectives. Significant work has been done in this regard and it is hoped that the process will be completed during the term of office of the current Council.


​The historical development of the engineering profession​ in South Africa 

The Engineering Council of South Africa is a statutory body established in terms of the Engineering Profession Act, 2000 (Act No 46 of 2000), and derives its powers and responsibilities from that Act. The main focus of the Act is on the promotion of public safety, health and interests in relation to the actions of registered persons. Since its inception in 1969, the Engineering Council (then the SA Council for Professional Engineers) has been involved in transformation, initially rather slowly but later gaining momentum exponentially. A quick historic overview illustrates this:

  1. ​1969 - Promulgation of the Professional Engineers’ Act. The SA Council for Professional Engineers (SACPE) only provided for the registration of professional engineers. This did not address the aspirations of the other members of the engineering team, i.e. technologists, certificated engineers and technicians. The SACPE accepted the need for recognition of the other categories and started formal negotiations with representatives of the three groups.

  2. 1979 - Amendment of the Professional Engineers’ Act. After extensive negotiations the Act was amended to provide for the establishment of Boards of Control. These Boards were to be autonomous, although administered by the SACPE.

  3. 1984 to 1987 - Establishment of Boards of Control: the Board of Control for Engineering Technicians (1984); the Board of Control for Professional Technologists in Engineering (1985); and the Board of Control for Registered Certificated Engineers (1987). It soon became evident that the categories of registration had much in common and that unification under one umbrella body (the ECSA) should be pursued. Steps were taken to plan this unification and a new Act was drafted.

  4. 1990 - Promulgation of the Engineering Profession of SA Act. The Engineering Council of South Africa was established and performed, under one roof, the functions of the SACPE and the Boards. Many of the principles contained in the Professional Engineers’ Act, 1968 were incorporated into the new Act. One of the important principles was the fact that persons who did not hold an acceptable qualification, but who achieved the necessary levels of competency through self-development and experience, could be registered in the relevant category. Parliament, at the time of debating the Bill, expressed its appreciation for the fact that the ECSA was already registering persons who had achieved their competency via the alternative route. Within a few years the ECSA adopted an even wider view by accepting the principle that recognition of competence could be extended beyond the four categories registered at the time. The concept of "specified scope" was developed for purposes of registering persons who did not comply with the registration requirements for the existing categories, but who performed essential functions in the area of public safety and health.

  5. 1994 - Registration of Lift Inspectors. After comparatively short discussions with the Department of Labour the first persons were registered as Lift Inspectors. This is a most significant development because these registrations were effected within the framework of the current legislation, which was - in the strictest sense of the word - rather outdated, to accommodate this form of registration comfortably. It should be borne in mind that this development took place before the Government expressed its desire that the professions should adopt a more inclusive approach towards recognising practitioners who had not previously been registrable. The industry responded to this new development by approaching the ECSA with the view to establishing categories of registration for other vocations, such as Non-destructive Testers, Materials Testers, Clinical Engineering Personnel, Timber-roof Truss Inspectors, etc.. At the same time the Department of Labour approached the ECSA to investigate taking over the DOL functions of certification of Certificated Engineers, which was followed by the DOL’s request to investigate the registration of Pressure Vessel Inspectors, Gas Fuel Installers and Installation Electricians. The ECSA responded positively to these by appointing project managers to do the developmental work.

  6. 1995 - Forum for the Professions in the Built Environment. After the elections in 1994, Minister Jeff Radebe established a Forum for the Professions in the Built Environment which was aimed at reviewing the professions of engineering, architecture, quantity surveying and valuing. From the outset of the review process, the Ministry aimed at creating a regulatory framework for the professions that would:

    • take cognisance of the context in which the professions developed in South Africa;

    • promote and protect the public against exploitation by the professionals and practitioners;

    • take due cognisance of the need to promote and maintain sustainable built and natural environments;

    • promote a culture of mutual accountability within the professions, their clients and the public;

    • facilitate the professions’ participation in integrated development in the context of national goals;

    • maintain healthy professions in terms of standards, competence and performance;

    • promote ongoing human resources development by providing for the necessary diversity of professional skills;

    • make it possible for all persons with the required competence to obtain professional recognition;

    • make professional services available to the public and state; and

    • promote sound governance of the professions

  7. 1999 - Publication of the Engineering Profession of SA Bill. The "Engineering Profession of SA Bill" was published in the Gazette on 9 July 1999, together with the "Policy Document on the Statutory Regulation of the Built Environment Professions". In addition the "Council for the Built Environment Bill", as well as "Bills for Architects, Quantity Surveyors and Valuers", were published for general comment. The Bill contains all the principles referred to in item (6)

  8. 2000 - Promulgation of the Engineering Profession Act, 2000 (Act No. 46 of 2000)

    • ​​Engineering Profession Act, 2000 (Act No. 46 of 2000) 

    • View Executive Summary of the Implications of the Act

Statistics : Comparative Registration trends by Race Group 

All Categories

1994 to 2006

2007 to 2008

Professional Engineers

1996 to 2006

2007 to 2008

Professional Engineering Technologists

1994 to 2006

2007 to 2008

Professional Certificated Engineers

1994 to​ 2006

2007 to 2​008

Professional Engineering Technicians

1994 to 2006

2007 to 2008​

Candidate Engineers

1994 to 2006

2007 to 2008

Candidate Engineering Technologists

1994 to 2006

2007 to 2008

Candidate Engineering Technicians

1994 to 2006

2007 to 2008​