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An evaluation of Transnet’s engineer in training programme: a systems thinking approach.

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The South African government is looking towards Transnet to grow the economy through its capital investment programme. In order to achieve this, the company needs to have within its ranks a highly competent workforce who possess the necessary skills. The Engineer in Training programme at Transnet is critical in ensuring that the current and future employees of Transnet are competent and have the necessary skills to perform at a level which is required of them and successfully deliver on projects. This study examines the Engineer in Training Programme at Transnet to determine how the programme is perceived by senior staff, if the programme is achieving its purpose and the ways in which the programme can be improved. The aim of the study was to identify how the graduate programme currently offered by Transnet Group Capital can be improved. This was done by benchmarking the activities and outcomes of the program against the Engineering Council of South Africa’s requirements for a professional engineer. A qualitative approach was adopted for this study. This was conducted in the form of a semi-structured focus group platform using predefined prompts to direct the discussions. The focus group session followed a soft systems methodology (SSM) approach, hence, SSM tools and techniques were employed during the session to gain a clearer understanding of the problem situation. This included the development of rich pictures, root definitions and conceptual models, which were carried out in three consecutive phases during the course of the session. The data was analysed using thematic analysis, with the aid of NVivo 10.0 software. The presented themes were then used to compliment the findings of the SSM tools that were utilised during the data collection phase. The main themes which emerged were Competency, Programme Structure, Responsibility of Mentors and Mentees, Responsibility of Decision Makers, Responsibility of Programme Custodian and Knowledge Sharing. There were a total of 31 change measures suggested. It will obviously not be feasible to implement all of these changes at once. It is therefore recommended that a phased approach is adopted by prioritizing the most critical change requirements as well as the most easily attainable changes first. It is also recommended that a committee be tasked to oversee the change measure implementation and that, within that committee, a dedicated champion is assigned to each theme or category of change. This study has been successful in revealing a deeper understanding of the Engineer in Training programme at Transnet and its deficiencies as well as the means to begin to address the identified problems. This will in turn have a positive effect on the quality of trainees being produced, thereby the quality of work being done by the company and ultimately the economic strength of the country. The study has thus been valid and useful, giving a number of recommendations for the improvement of the programme. Recommendations for further study have also been suggested and it is thought that if these studies are taken further, significant advancement of the programme can be achieved.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2016