EngineerIT Inbox – March 2014

March 17th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


The March 2014 letters to the editor discussed challenges facing electronic manufacturers, and bridging the needs of academia and industry.


Winning letter to the editor

Electronic manufacturing industry realities

Dear Editor

Your article titled “Is the electronic manufacturing industry in SA dead?” (lead editorial, EngineerIT November/December 2013) refers to the difficulties facing original equipment manufacturers in South Africa.

The author mentions government initiatives as well as archaic duties (import) and how these affect the electronics manufacturing industry. As a bookkeeper for a small electronics manufacturing company I have some insight into the shortfalls and to an extent, the opportunities within the industry.

What the author didn’t mention is that a major manufacturing cost component in South Africa is labour and this is possibly even more pronounced in the electronics industry as a technical diploma is preferred and technical proficiency a prerequisite. All at significant cost due to the skilled labour shortage South Africa is currently experiencing. In addition, qualified electronics workers are in high demand and often lured from company to company by salary increases. This once again escalates costs to the company.

That said, soaring labour costs are nothing new. Neither is an onerous operating environment.

For the industry to experience true growth, South African electronics manufacturers need to present a unique value proposition. Showcase the strengths of South African manufacturing quality so that we can import (if not produce locally) raw components and export a finished product of world quality. This will have the added benefit of having a net export effect on the economy.

It is imperative that government provides a favourable legal framework for the industry to prosper. To provide the impetus for change, manufacturers have to stand together to lobby government on creating an environment where South Africa is a preferred manufacturing partner and or, destination for worldwide industries outsourcing component manufacture.

Kirsten Pretorius


Bridging the academic/workplace divide

Dear Editor

With reference to “In conversation with Prof. S Sinha, University of Johannesburg” in EngineerIT of February 2014.

In Germany the problem of bridging the divide between institutions of higher education and workplace/employers has been successfully bridged by using the co-operative education model. Regions such as Baden Wuttenberg (the region with the highest innovation index in the world) have been using this methodology for a number of years. What it effectively consists of is a system where students reside in universities and undergo theoretical training for a fixed amount of time (i.e. determined by the required teaching contact hours) and thereafter spend the balance of the year in the workplace. The state subsidises the “university time” whilst the employer pays for the “workplace time”. This methodology is used for students qualifying from ordinary BScs all the way to PhDs. The retention percentage of the students in the companies in which they spend “workplace time” is something like 90% (not all students have been traceable). Because of its incredibly high success rate, the system is now being adopted by an ever increasing number of educational institutions.

We were going to pilot this model in the Eastern Cape at WSU, NMMU and Fort Hare University in educational streams that were suitable for it: engineering, commerce and nursing. Unfortunately Dr. Claudia Beck-Reinhardt who was seconded to the Eastern Cape Socio Economic Consultative Council. Soon after we started she was seconded to the Department of Higher Education national office. I am unaware of whether she is still in South Africa or not. I have a substantial amount of information on this system and can make it available to Professor Sinha should he be interested in it.

Michele Rivarola

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