AllyCAD Showcase

Loving The Challenges

Althea Povey,
KweziV3 Engineers and SAACE President

"Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning." Motivational speaker Og Mandino may have had Althea Povey in mind when he came up with this famous quotation.

Althea, who is Divisional Director of Waste and Wastewater Treatment at KweziV3 Engineers, has recently been elected President of the South African Association of Consulting Engineers (SAACE), the first woman to hold this vital post. The SAACE is a business support organisation representing more than 450 consulting engineering firms, employing almost 15,000 people. The SAACE is tasked with enhancing and promoting the business of consulting engineers, and Althea Povey relishes the opportunity to make it her business to grapple with the enormous challenges facing the industry.

"One of my concerns relates to the "numbers" in the profession. Firstly, the numbers as they pertain to our members, and secondly, the numbers in terms of fees and remuneration.

"With regards the first, the demographics of our profession, we eagerly await the findings from a study currently being carried out, which is aimed at determining the actual status quo of the graduates and professionals in the industry. Preliminary data show that we have two dominant groups in terms of numbers, one large, older and experienced group (average age 56) and another large, young and inexperienced group (average age 25). Clearly both groups are very important as well as being dependent on each other the experienced group for mentoring and skills transfer and the younger group, as they are the future of our industry.

"In order for the industry to retain the young and enthusiastic engineers we will have to look after them. I think engineers as a rule have not been taught relationship-orientated skills, and the time has come to make a point of rectifying that. When it comes to being task-orientated, we are brilliant. But we need to take stock and realise how precious our staff are," she says determinedly.

"We have known for a while now that engineers need skills other than pure engineering. You need business skills to get and do business; the days of waiting for the business to walk in the door are long gone. Generally the industry is introvert and humble, they hide their lights under a bushel. Trying to put these non-engineering skills into the mix is difficult, it doesn't come naturally, so we have to learn them."

"The universities say that their job is to teach skills so that graduates can do the work of an engineer. So when it comes to acquiring other skills, such as people skills, negotiation skills, and marketing skills, should they, as the engineering department of the university, be required to teach these competencies?"

"Having recognised this need, the SAACE's School of Consulting Engineering offers a regular schedule of business-orientated courses throughout the year so enabling engineers to acquire a more diverse range of capabilities and competencies.
  The second part of the numbers that concern Althea leads on directly from the people problems outlined. "We keep hearing contradictory reports regarding the shortage of engineers. Some say there is a shortage while others talk of vast numbers of graduates that are unemployed. I believe that there may be a shortage of engineers at a specific level (35 to 45 age group) only, and instead when one hears talk of shortages these should maybe be seen in terms of affordability. Could it be that the industry does need more engineers but cannot afford to employ them as the fees earned by the firms are too low to allow for increased employment?

"It is an ongoing battle convincing our clients that they should pay us for the value we add to projects. By having clients discount our fees, they are damaging the industry, and it's a dangerous and disturbing cycle."

"Clients seem to be happy to pay other consultants (management, financial, investment marketing etc.) what they ask, but when it comes to engineering, all of a sudden our fees are too high. It's ridiculous. What clients need to realise is that when we don't get paid adequate fees, not only can we not pay competitive salaries, we can't train people either and so begins the exit of engineers from the profession. Our developing country needs each and every engineer!"

The enthusiasm and passion Althea Povey has for her industry is the same she has for day-job. She holds a vital job in our environmentally sensitive country. "I am fortunate to have a dedicated and enthusiastic team working with me at Kwezi V3. We are involved with water and wastewater projects throughout the country and are therefore able to see first hand the development taking place in South Africa. I also like to brag about a project we recently completed in Cameroon besides the design, the actual installation and commissioning (in Cameroon) was a carried out by one of our female engineers.

Have her non-engineering degrees in Genetics and Microbiology helped her in this job, one may ask? "The genetics has no relevance, but who would have thought that when I studied biochemistry and microbiology all those years ago that I would be working with these subjects again when considering treatment methods.

Althea began using AllyCAD and Stardust when it was first launched during her early years at Jeffares & Green. "The launch of CIVIL DESIGNER coincided with me moving more from design into management so I take a little longer to find my way around the programme now. Both products, AllyCAD and CIVIL DESIGNER, are wonderful South African products, they are world-class."

The problems facing the consulting industry are exacting. The new SAACE President has excellent qualifications and lots of experience that, coupled with her formidable enthusiasm and passion, will conquer the challenges that face her.

image Althea Povey obtained her B.Sc., H E D and B Eng. degrees at Stellenbosch University. She recently completed a Masters in Philosophy at UCT, and added project management and construction law modules onto her already impressive CV.

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