Ithemba Trust plans to educate young rural women as engineers. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Ithemba Trust plans to educate young rural women as engineers. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

Bureau Veritas, a 190-year-old French-based service provider that offers testing, inspection and certification to global standards, has launched the Ithemba Trust to educate young rural women as engineers.

Ithemba, which means "hope" in Nguni, will mainly identify disadvantaged young black women and fully support them in obtaining university degrees across the science, technology, engineering and maths fields. "This must be a competitive degree that leads to global employment [prospects]," Bureau Veritas vice-president for Southern Africa Sal Govender said on Wednesday.

The company operates in 30 African countries and is 51% black-owned in SA.

Graduating students would not be required to work for the group or its 400,000 client companies across the world that are involved in sectors including marine, foods, commodities, consumer products, building and infrastructure and oil and petroleum, Govender said.

Bureau Veritas would offer graduates placements and teach them "work readiness" and entrepreneurial skills, she said.

Selection and initial funding of students for the trust had not yet been completed. Bureau Veritas had already introduced "learnerships" for about 50 unemployed youth including engineering bursaries, in 2017 and had helped about 300 employees complete degree, diploma and certificate courses.

"Democracy is only effective through education," Yvonne Kgame, one of the trust’s independent trustees, said on Wednesday. Rural development was a priority, she said.

Meanwhile, Onwell Msomi, another independent trustee, said on Wednesday the average age of engineers in SA was 55, the majority of whom were still white males. He said training young rural women as engineers was a "national imperative" to ensure the country’s economy was sustainable.

The company’s metals and minerals division in Southern Africa had recently implemented new testing systems that measure transportable moisture limits.

This refers to the maximum moisture content allowed for safe transport of cargo that can liquefy. It can affect the stability of ships and vehicles, potentially harming the environment.

The company now conducts the tests at its Richards Bay laboratory, which means turnaround times are quicker. High pressures, high temperatures and dust affect diesel, petrol and marine fuels in different ways.