Getting your honours degree in chemical engineering should lead to employment regardless of the country you got in, right? In South Africa, chemical engineers are taking to the streets to physically beg for jobs in the industry. Social media has sparked a conversation about graduates not being able to get jobs after two photos purportedly showing graduates begging for jobs found their way onto Facebook and Twitter this week.
Both pictures show citizens of the country that claim to have B-tech degrees in chemical engineering. In the first photo that emerged a woman wrote, "I have B-Tech Chemical Engineering. Please help!!! I NEED A JOB. CV in my possession," on a piece of cardboard and stood at traffic lights which is an action synonymous with beggars in the country. Her name is Anthea Malwandle and stood at an intersection in Rosebank, Johannesburg. According to EWN, she completed her degree at the Vaal University of Technology in 2015 and has been looking for a job ever since. The silver lining is that after the picture was shared on social media, she finally got an interview at Sasol.
Then another picture emerged onto social media of a man named Sello Mokate, who graduated from the University of the Free State with his B-tech in chemical engineering as well. He too took to the streets with a cardboard stating his qualifications and asking for a job.
Mokate spoke to Times Live, saying: "It pains me that I rely on my older brother and parents for provisions but I have a B-tech. I thought I would be employed by now but I have sent countless emails and I went to a number of interviews with no success."
Where the divide is occurring is due to the fact that a BSc (Bachelor of Science) or B.Eng (Bachelor in Engineering) degree is research and development oriented and seemingly highly regarded, whilst a Btech degree is implementation oriented. Nonetheless, both should equate to a job in the industry, however, BTech degrees seem to be ignored by employers. This could be due to the fact that BSc and B. Eng degrees sometimes come from highly regarded universities compared to some BTech students who get their degrees - starting with a national diploma - through a technikon or technical college.
The country has tried to level the playing field and make the qualifications made at technikons equal to those of universities but as is apparent due to the social media postings, that has not been the case. As a result, you get a gap between engineering graduates and employers that seem to exercise preference. However, the situation is changing in a country which is desperately looking for engineers in certain fields. Qualifications from all sorts of institutions are slowly but surely becoming more relevant to employers who require engineers in the industry.