Africa's Got Engineering Talent

Photo: GE
Ghanaian members of the Graduate Engineering Training Programme (GETP) on a training course in the United States. The GETP was launched in 2014 as part of GE’s commitment to skills development and localisation in Africa, and has quickly become a best-in-class programme for young engineers.
2 September 2016
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GE Africa (Lagos)

GE's engineering talent is a crucial ingredient in delivering infrastructure and solutions across the world. The Graduate Engineering Training Programme aims to create a top quality talent pipeline which gives newly graduated engineers the opportunity to gain practical experience as they rotate through company functions. In this way, GE is able to nurture early career high-performing talent capable of meeting engineering challenges across the world.

As part of GE's commitment to skills development and localisation, the GETP was launched in Africa in 2014, and has quickly become a best-in-class programme for young engineers. Participating countries include Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Ivory Coast. Engineers have the opportunity to specialise in one of several disciplines, including Healthcare and Oil & Gas.

To find out more about what differentiates the programme, GE Reports Africa spoke to some of the participants as well as Jaco Bierman, Modality Service Leader for Africa, who leads the Healthcare section of the GETP.

"The buddy system utilised in this programme is truly what differentiates it from other training programmes. The young talent learns from the best technical resources in the business while we develop and coach them to become true GE culture ambassadors from a young age."

The two-year programme prepares participants for specific business roles, such as field service engineer and application engineer. It also allows them to build technical and professional  skills through challenging rotational assignments, projects and intensive technical as well as professional and leadership skills training. Participants also receive close one-on-one mentoring and true on-job training experiences.

The first six months see young engineers rotating through at least two business units in GE before settling on a specialisation.

"Finding the right modality fit for the participant is absolutely crucial as different modalities require different personal characteristics to be successful," says Bierman.

Once a modality has been selected, GETP participants receive intensive training, with both computer-based and instructor-led training courses in the USA, China and India. During this period, they also spend time in the field with their mentors managing real-life service activities.

How are participants chosen?

"We aim to focus not only on academic top achievers, but also on identifying candidates who are passionate, dynamic and driven to achieve," says Bierman.

GETP participant Sezardo Charifo, 26, is from Mozambique, and has set himself the goal of becoming a service engineer on a subsea drilling system.

"In Grade 10, I wanted to be a doctor because I live in a region that is lacking in basic healthcare for people who can't afford private clinics. I wanted to be a part of a solution for poor people, but this dream was interrupted because, when I was in Grade 11, my secondary school didn't have a chemistry teacher," he says.

His family wanted him to become a teacher, so that he would be readily employable, but Charifo – having already given up medicine – was determined to pursue engineering. "I was interested in how the machines combine themselves to form a unit and become a solution  for people's needs," he says.

Although the GETP programme has been challenging, he has nevertheless enjoyed the experience. "I am lucky to be in the programme because I do not just learn how to deal with machines, I also learn to work with people, how the field worker thinks, and how to deliver the right solution in uncertain situations. At school, it was just theory."

Nseobot Udomah, 26, is currently participating in the GETP initiative, and has worked as an engineer for the past three years. He is particularly interested in supply chain and electrical engineering, which he sees as the future.

"Because we really aim to develop top talent, we often run into the challenge that the countries where the programme operates want to permanently employ and deploy the GETPs into the field before they have actually graduated from the programme. There is truly such a desperate need for technical skills outside of this programme that we almost never have the opportunity for newly appointed field engineers to learn from senior experienced field engineers while they are in the field," says Bierman.

"The programme is very intense. It comes with great challenges of constant studying in order to keep up with solutions, interfacing daily with customers, and frequent travel within and out of the region," he says. "It has improved my communication and leadership skills, and ability to make tough decisions geared towards customer satisfaction."

Ghanaian Ofosu Amoako, also 26, is planning to focus on engineering operational management and project management, and studied electrical and electronics engineering. He describes the GETP experience as "challenging and interesting".

What motivated him to choose engineering? "I realised I had an interest in the mechanical movement of objects and how they operated. In fact, I could observe a system and operate it satisfactorily without having to read its manual," he says.

This article first appeared on GE Reports sub-Sahara Africa

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