Books and training material

Allyson Lawless has researched and written a number of papers, reports, training courses and books on engineering education and skills development.

The expression ‘Numbers and Needs’ has become synonymous with her name as the two books discussing ‘Numbers and Needs’ with respect to the civil engineering profession, have offered direction in terms of education and skills development way beyond the field of civil engineering, and have spawned many support and training initiatives nationwide. Hard copies of both ‘Numbers and Needs’ publications can be purchased from SAICE, contact

Allyson has also researched and written many detailed guideline and skills development documents, the most comprehensive two of which are ‘A guideline for infrastructure sector master planning’ and ‘Skills for and through SIPs’.

Similarly, the Candidate Academy has become a well-known development initiative aimed at developing engineering graduates into competent practitioners, able to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa as engineering professionals. The courses known as the ‘Road to Registration’ series have all largely been written by Allyson and offer direction to candidates, supervisors, mentors and HR on how to develop training programmes to develop a new cadre of engineering professionals. To book on one of more of these courses contact or visit

Books and guidelines

Numbers and Needs : Addressing imbalances in the civil engineering profession (2005)

After two and a half years of research it was found that there were some 15 000 civil engineers, technologists and technicians in South Africa with 6 000 having left the industry over a period of 10 to 15 years.

The volume of data and findings were such that an authoritative book was written and published in October 2005. The book contains every possible statistic on civil engineering – profiles per sector, location, age, gender, colour, qualification, hours worked, juniors being trained, university enrolment and graduation statistics, etc. It identified a critical 5-year window for skills transfer, after which many experienced engineering personnel would retire and there would simply not be enough left to train younger graduates and build systems and capacity for the extended service delivery challenges faced in democratic South Africa.

The findings and recommendations have been widely published and debated and have formed the basis for many major national initiatives.

Download a copy (23MB) – Please send Dr Lawless a copy of your own works and include a reference to Numbers and Needs should you use any material.
Numbers and Needs in local government : Addressing civil engineering – the critical profession for service delivery (2007)

After two years of research and managing large teams of young and aging engineering professionals in some 70 municipalities, it was found that the number of technical staff in municipalities continued to dwindle. With the number of civil engineering professionals in place down to about half of those employed in the late eighties, at a time when the population to be served had moved from some 14m who were serviced by local government in the apartheid era, to 47m in the new wall-to-wall local government  model, the service delivery challenges appeared insurmountable!

The book makes many recommendations on rebuilding the skills base, streamlining procedures, separating political and administration functions and responsibilities, and is brimming with technical ideas on more efficient service delivery.

A comprehensive turnaround strategy is suggested for local government as a whole, considering not only basic service delivery but long term sustainability including addressing revenue enhancement, master planning, expanding bulk service capacities and taking care of operations and maintenance to ensure that current assets do not fail prematurely.

To download a copy (16MB) – Please send Dr Lawless a copy of your own works and include a reference to Numbers and Needs should you use any material.

A guideline for infrastructure sector master planning (2011)

Recognising the need to consider long-term and phased city-wide development, rather than limit planning to the 5-year election cycle, the Gauteng Department of Local Government and Housing asked SAICE Professional Development and Projects to develop a guideline document on the process of master planning. This was to be shared with all municipalities in Gauteng to ensure sustainable development in the face of increasing urbanisation.

The research largely fell to Allyson, who was assisted by the many retired engineers appointed to mentor young candidates in local government. Planning considerations, assessing the status quo and determining demand per service is discussed in detail. Elements of the plan, including the asset register, project plans, three-to-five-year capital and operational plans and long-term plans are outlined, and a Terms of Reference is provided for appointing service providers to develop master plans.

To download a copy (8MB) – Please send Dr Lawless a copy of your own works and include a reference to the Master Planning document should you use any material.
Skills for and through SIPs (2014)

In 2012 the South African President, the Honourable Jacob Zuma, announced the commencement of the National Infrastructure Plan and at the time he stated that ‘…the massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail lines, dams and roads. It must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation. The Department of Higher Education and Training was assigned the task of investigating the skills required, determining whether there were shortages, and if so, to develop a Skills Plan to address the President’s call. After detailed research, it was determined that 76 occupations required development and support. As an advisor to the Department on this project, Allyson was intimately involved in the research. The report, ‘Skills for and through SIPs covers the range of occupations from the built environment, managers, trades to elementary occupations requiring specific skills training to be effective in delivering the Strategic Infrastructure Projects.

To download a copy (17MB) – Please send Dr Lawless a copy of your own works and include a reference to Skills for and through SIPs should you use any material.

Training material

Road to Registration for Candidates (2010)

This material covers the entire development process for young graduates towards professional registration. It explains who the role players are, their roles and responsibilities, the types of activities relevant for developing engineering competence and the need for not only technical, but also professional and personal development. It emphasises the fact that candidates should take responsibility for their own development and destiny and offers direction on preparing training plans, completing ECSA forms on an ongoing basis and ensuring that regular assessments take place to guide development.

Road to Registration for Mentors, Supervisors and HR (2010)

Aimed at all those responsible for engineering skills development, this material is very detailed and covers the need to understand all the challenges faced by graduates including biological, social, socio-economic, psychological and educational and suggests activities, different types of support and structuring of training programmes to ensure that all graduates overcome their challenges and make the most of opportunities offered to them. Roles and responsibilities are outlined and the need for mentors, supervisors and HR to coordinate their efforts is emphasised to ensure optimum results.

Road to Registration for Supervisors and Coaches (2013)

The need for supervisors to recognise their role as knowledge coaches is the focus of this material. Understanding the candidate, methods of learning in the workplace, and selecting appropriate competences, suitable activities, systems, supplementary training, reporting methods and assessment regimes is critical for daily development of candidates.