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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Industry body initiatives boost research, skills building

SINCE the launch of the Cement & Concrete South Africa (CCSA) last year, the organisation has hosted a range of educational and concrete research and development initiatives to promote research, and improve skills and education, in the cement and concrete industry.

The first of these CCSA initiatives is the Young Concrete Researchers and Engineers Technologists Symposium (YCRETS) that promotes research in the local industry.

The YCRETS initiative was initially planned to begin in 2020, but was delayed to early 2021, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

YCRETS showcased 24 technical presentations from young concrete researchers, engineers and technologists on July 13 and 14 last year.

“This was a virtual event during which young students and researchers 35 years and under would have an opportunity to interact with academics and discuss their research work. “The presentations were of an excellent standard, and we’re hoping to do another event later this year,” says CCSA business development manager Hanlie Turner.

The initiative also involved academic staff from the University of the Witwatersrand, in Gauteng, forming a scientific committee that analysed and peer reviewed presentations that were submitted.

Turner states that CCSA is also creating a scientific committee in conjunction with the Stellenbosch University to have a YCRETS hybrid event in Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape.

“YCRETS has provided great exposure for young students and researchers. The presentations were published in the online proceedings as well as in our quarterly magazine.”

She adds that YCRETS helps to introduce young students to the industry and enables contractors and cement and concrete companies to identify potential candidates for employment.

YCRETS is also not limited to students at academic institutions, as young technologists from private companies can contribute their own research.

Another CCSA educational initiative is the 19 CONCRETEFiX webinars that have been hosted to date, covering a range of topics.

Turner states that the webinar series was initiated in 2020 – before CCSA was consolidated from multiple industry bodies – particularly amid the onset of Covid-19 and demand for online educational opportunities.

“This year, we’ve planned to do a webinar once a month. The tenth edition of Fulton’s Concrete Technology handbook was published last year, and we are getting the authors of some of the chapters in the handbook to present during these webinars. “This will enable the authors to elaborate and provide more background information on their chapters,” she explains.

Holding these webinars provides an opportunity for people who are not able to attend physical classes to become educated on cement- and concrete-related topics.

She also highlights the 2022 Fulton Awards, held earlier this month, which had 24 submissions this year.

The awards are held every two years for excellence in concrete design and construction, and the winners are chosen as entire teams responsible for producing a submitted constructed structure or development.

The categories include buildings of up to R50-million in value, buildings worth more than R50-million, infrastructure of up to R100-million and infrastructure of more than R100-million, as well as innovation and invention in concrete.

“This isn’t just a judgment based on a written submission – the judges, comprising a materialist specialist, structural engineer and professional architect, would visit and assess projects on site.”

She highlights another benefit to this year’s awards being that CCSA became an international partner of industry body the American Concrete Institute, which also has an awards scheme. The winners of CCSA’s five categories will be entered into the American Concrete Institute Awards.

Further, the CCSA KwaZulu-Natal branch introduced the Careers in Concrete initiative last year to promote diverse career opportunities in the cement and concrete industry.

Owing to the successes of this initiative, Turner says the branch is looking to expand this initiative to other education institutions in the province.

While the initiative was done in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the KwaZulu-Natal branch is engaging with the Durban University of Technology on the possibility of partnering with the institution on this initiative.

The CCSA is also examining the possibility of running this initiative with academic institutions in the Western Cape, and Gauteng CCSA branches in the future.

“The challenges of the past year were formidable, but presented opportunities, and opportunities culminated in development. This is exactly what CCSA stands for: a unified body to lead the local industry towards relevance and growth. We are confident that CCSA will grow even further in its second year of establishment,” she concludes.

Engineering News

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