The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) is proud to announce the journey of its 2023 President, Steven Kaplan, whose unwavering curiosity and dedication to technical excellence have led him to this prestigious position. From his early years as a curious youngster, tirelessly disassembling mechanical and electrical devices to understand their inner workings, to his current role as President, Kaplan’s commitment to his craft has been characterized by a passion for excellence and a deep sense of pride in a job well done.Hailing from Harare, Zimbabwe, Kaplan’s fascination with all things technical emerged at a young age, nurtured by his father’s encouragement to explore and experiment. His childhood endeavors included dismantling household appliances and radios to gain insight into their functionality. Additionally, a pivotal moment came when he took it upon himself to construct dams across a small river that ran behind his house, using a blend of mud, rocks, and straw. This early interest in shaping his environment through engineering projects sowed the seeds for his future in civil engineering. As he matured, Kaplan’s passion for technical pursuits extended to cars and motorcycles, where he relished the opportunity to repair, refurbish, and overhaul engines, honing his skills as a handyman in the process. His drive for perfection and the enduring commitment to craftsmanship have remained integral to his personal and professional journey. Throughout his extensive and diverse career, which encompassed local and international assignments, Kaplan, like numerous civil engineers and project managers, found inspiration in devising innovative solutions to efficiently plan, design, and manage projects, ensuring a seamless transition from the client’s concept to the final operating facility. Witnessing the satisfaction of a content client has been the ultimate reward for him. One of Kaplan’s key objectives as SAICE’s President is to highlight the present lack of appreciation for engineering professionals in the built environment. “The profession has gradually lost its value in the eyes of both the public and private sectors. I am determined to address this issue and raise awareness of the invaluable contributions made by engineering professionals in shaping societies and driving progress.” Kaplan’s theme as the 2023 SAICE President has been centred on highlighting the relevance of engineering professionals in the built environment, adopting the slogan: ‘Make engineering great again (MEGA)’. Kaplan is determined to position SAICE as a leader in infrastructure research, commentary, and solution finding, driven by acknowledged experts.
Speaking about his vision: “I am committed to creating a platform for meaningful engagements that will influence macro-level planning, advocate for infrastructure funding, stimulate debates on infrastructure conditions and their impact on quality of life and the economy, and highlight necessary actions to improve the nation’s infrastructure.”He adds: “I firmly believe that enhancing the value of the engineering profession and its representative institutions is essential for empowering public service institutions and uplifting the overall infrastructure in South Africa, ultimately serving the public interest.” Kaplan is equally passionate about making a positive impact on the young professionals of SAICE. As he presents to final-year students and mentors young graduates, he emphasizes the importance of pushing boundaries and becoming future decision-makers in the nation’s leadership. Kaplan advocates for proper mentoring, encouraging young professionals to seek companies with formalised mentorship programmes and rotational schedules to shape their career paths. Having previously served as both Chief Operating Officer and Acting Chief Executive Officer of SAICE, Kaplan understands the importance of setting achievable goals during his one-year term as President. While acknowledging the challenges of influencing widespread change in the public service, he remains focused on practical objectives. “My aim is to convince municipalities to embrace lifecycle planning and involve experienced engineering professionals in the decision-making process. By achieving this, we can make a significant difference and contribute to the betterment of South Africa’s infrastructure.” SAICE CEO Sekadi Phayane-Shakhane explains that with Kaplan at the helm as president for 2023, SAICE has been able to champion the cause of engineering professionals and spearhead initiatives that drive the growth of South Africa’s economy through sustainable infrastructure development. “We extend our heartfelt gratitude for his dedicated service as our President this past year. Steven’s commitment and leadership has forged a path of excellence for SAICE. On behalf of the entire SAICE community, I want to express my appreciation for his outstanding contributions,” she concludes.