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Next Engineers Programme targets high schools

- Wits University

The five-year programme seeks to increase the diversity of the next generation of engineers through early exposure to engineering concepts and careers.

Learners exploring at the launch of the Next Engineers Programme

Wits University is part of the Next Engineers programme, an initiative led by the global company General Electric (GE) along with local partners Protech, FHI360 and the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), designed to secure the next pipeline of engineers and to increase diversity in engineering.

The programme launched on Thursday, 24 February 2022 during #EngineersWeek in Johannesburg, will provide more than 3500 students between the ages of 13 to 18 over five years with hands-on exposure to engineering concepts and careers, and ultimately award financial support to students pursuing engineering degrees.

The launch hosted at GE offices was attended by the Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi and officials from the Department, learners and principals and various stakeholders.

Speaking at the launch Lesufi said: “As the GDE, we welcome this initiative and are grateful that GE will be investing in transforming our engineering sector, especially through our learners. As we are aware, the engineering sector has a critical role to play in ensuring that Gauteng achieves its goals as articulated in the Growing Gauteng Together Vision 2030.”

Nyimpini Mabunda, CEO of GE South Africa highlighted the need for a diverse profession to provide “more diverse solutions that will contribute to the growth of the economy. Through GE’s Next Engineers programme, we are not only exposing tomorrow’s engineers and change-makers who will solve society’s most pressing challenges to invaluable hands-on learning experiences but we are playing our part in increasing the representation of females in the engineering sector.

The programme currently exists in Cincinnati, Ohio and Greenville, South Carolina in the United States of America, and Staffordshire in the United Kingdom. Johannesburg is the first African city to host the programme. The goal is to reach more than 85,000 students in approximately 25 cities globally by 2030.

Wits expertise  

Wits University’s Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, through the Academic Development Unit (ADU), together with Protec will play a key role in the implementation and success of the programme.

Wits University will host, design, run and support the three components of the programme namely the  Engineering Academies, Camps and Discovery - for thousands young learners from several districts in Johannesburg selected from quintile 1 – 5 schools.

The Wits team comprises Programme Director Prof. Rodney Genga, Prof. Francis Faller, Prof. Cuthbert Nyamupangedengu and Dr Yu-Chieh Yen.

For Genga and team, this programme is part of ongoing efforts to expose young minds, from an early age, of the possibilities that exist.

“We believe it that early access and exposure to engineering concepts and industry irrespective of learners’ backgrounds, plays a big part in the aspirations of young people as well as contributes to elimination historic and systemic barriers,” says Genga, Director of the ADU whose main role in the Faculty is to improve the success and throughput of engineering students.

In particular, ADU will host the GE Next Engineers Camp at Wits during the winter high school break that overlaps with the University winter break. Engineering academics, as well as Wits engineering postgraduate Teaching Assistants, will play an active role in the camp.

Protec’s CEO, Balan Moodley says “through this collaboration we look forward to mentoring and exposing students to endless possibilities brought by the engineering sector and giving them an opportunity to turn their passion into a career in engineering”.

Balan Moodley (CEO: Protec), Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi, Nyimpini Mabunda (CEO, General Electric), Matsi Eseu (Senior HR Business Partner GE Steam Power), Prof. Rodney Genga (Wits: ADU) and Alison Bengston (Gauteng Education)