Young people working from advanced technology environments have the potential to create from 10 to 1000 jobs wherever they go in their productive lives. It is, therefore, essential to develop these skills to build a knowledge economy, said Jan Wessels, CEO of Denel Dynamics, the Missile and UAVS (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems) and Integrated Air Defence Solutions company.
Wessels was speaking at Denel's Young Achiever Awards 2013 on Friday, 25 January where a group of 60 engineering bursary students from universities across South Africa were honoured for achieving 150 distinctions between them in 2012. This event, which was held in Pretoria, is hosted by bursar sponsors Denel Dynamics; South Africa's home of rocket science and an engineering technology hub.
This highlight in the company's calendar, forms part of a group-wide initiative by the Denel Group to boost maths, science and engineering skills in the country. Latest research reveals declining percentages of pupils taking science in schools and a low maths skills base. There is also a shortage of skills in the engineering sector.
The Denel Group is an active participant in the nationwide drive to boost top-end skills, starting at foundation level with extra maths and science lessons, right up to postgraduate level where Denel Integrated Systems Solutions recently helped devise a course in radar technology at the University of Cape Town. This is apart from numerous bursaries and training programmes and an ongoing drive to encourage young learners to consider careers in the advanced technology field.
Denel Aviation regularly transports students from remote rural schools to air shows, thereby exposing them to a whole new world of aviation. Air shows are good opportunities to introduce young people to the exciting world of aviation. They have the opportunity to watch the aerial displays, but also to become more familiar with the technical and maintenance aspects of the industry.
In the quest to dispel the notion of the technical industry being a men's world, Denel Aviation also reaches out to young girls through the Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work Day and has also partnered the Thusa-A-Girl-Child Project to help girls from disadvantaged areas with health essentials, such as sanitary towels, and coaching on reproductive health matters to ensure that they have an equal opportunity to attend and succeed in school.
Other efforts include:
Denel Aviation sponsors projects providing extra maths and science lessons to learners in the North West at the Vaal Reefs Technical High School and at the Rafedile Academy in Springs, while company engineers teach learners from Reiger Park Secondary School at weekends at the Denel Kempton Park Campus. These projects, collectively, reach over 1000 learners every weekend. This provides a pool for recruitment into an ongoing sponsored apprenticeship training programme to qualify learners as aircraft maintenance artisans. The company is also working with the Ekurhuleni community in facilitating a Youth Day Career Programme.
Denel Dynamics sponsors a Saturday Maths and Science School at the Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School and the Steve Tshwete Secondary. This provides a pool of talent for recruitment into a bursary scheme and, ultimately, an engineer-in-training.
Producing young engineers: Denel Dynamics' Engineering Academy of Learning steers (EAL) steers interns into technology territory that pushes limits. For example, the 2012 Interns from EAL were tasked with designing, manufacturing and commissioning a 1 U Cube Satellite (CubeSat) and its associated ground support systems. The results continue to raise eyebrows because of the ingenuity and innovation of these talented youngsters.
"Young engineers can vastly influence job creation, and people with bright young minds have a drive to build things that work through experiment and product realisation - exactly the type of skills South Africa needs to nurture," said Wessels.
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