South Africa's plan to train three times as many engineers as it does at present is one of the reasons the world's largest engineering design software company set up an academy in the country in November.
The Autodesk University Extension will expose participants to the technology used to design buildings, roads, railways, telecommunications, electricity, infrastructure and mining products. It will train users in design, project management and various other digital tools.
Autodesk's head of marketing for emerging markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Miikka Arala, said SA was at the epicentre of Africa's rapidly growing design and engineering capacity.
Richard Smedley-Williams, director of sales and marketing at Worldsview, a distributor of Autodesk's products in SA, said the country was at the cutting edge of computer-aided design software.
"South Africa is an advanced market, actually. The adoption of our latest software in the country is comparable with Northern Europe," he said. "The three key drivers for growth have been increasing awareness, the move towards mobility, as well as the increased infrastructure spend on the [African] continent."
The Autodesk University Extension programme will host expert speakers who are both experienced customers and professional instructors.
Beginning as a conference in the US, the programme has grown to include events around the world, including a series of local Autodesk University Extension events.
Lisa Taylor of Educad, an authorised education partner of Autodesk, said an engineering design curriculum was already being introduced into high schools.
"What is new is the velocity and intensity of our drive. We're even working with secondary schools and reaching students at a much younger age. Of course students are hungry for the product. They already have cellphones, they're playing with computers and this is just a natural progression of that.
"Autodesk has designed a simple-to-use secondary school-level curriculum. Coupled with that, we've introduced design competitions which allow students to really brag about the project they're doing. The curriculum is being implemented through the graphics and engineering design subject in high schools."
Autodesk's software is used in South Africa's 52 Further Education and Training colleges.
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