Aurecon, rebranding as Zutari, is proud to celebrate the achievements of Dr. Tony Igboamalu during Youth Month, named SAPSA Young Engineering Professional of the Year for 2019/2020
Engineers should be involved in large-scale projects that significantly impact the well-being of communities. “The reason why we are engineers is that good, safe infrastructure is a priority for the livelihood and longevity of our communities.”
This is the message from Dr. Tony Igboamalu, recently named Young Engineering Professional of the Year at the 2019/2020 South African Professional Services Awards (SAPSA). He is currently employed by engineering, design and advisory company Aurecon. Dr. Igboamalu’s achievements to date are also a proud testament to Youth Month 2020.
“The future of our business relies on the education and skills of tomorrow’s leaders,” comments Aurecon Africa Chief Executive Officer Gustav Rohde. “We are a firm believer in education as a driver for skills development.”
“The successful development of young professionals will provide the next generation of leaders and technical experts who embody the values, culture and behaviours of our organisation,” adds Senzekile Mdluli, B-BBEE and CSI Manager at Aurecon.
Dr. Igboamalu received his Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering from Anambra State University in Uli, Nigeria at 23. He completed his Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Applied Science in Chemical Engineering: Water Utilisation at the University of Pretoria in 2011, followed by a Master’s (with distinction) in 2014 and a PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2019 at only 32.
He joined Aurecon in 2016 as a water and wastewater engineer in the Tshwane office. “It has been my dream company since 2012 due to its technical knowledge, which suited my professional development. During my PhD work I received a lot of support from the company, which I appreciated a lot.”
The company’s employees work in multidisciplinary, multisector and multicultural teams that pool their skills and expertise across Africa and its design centre locations. “To grow your career as a young professional requires deep disciplinary knowledge, along with an ability to communicate across social, cultural and economic boundaries. You also work alongside industry-leading professionals, mentors and peers so as to experience numerous areas of our business,” stresses Mdluli.
“You learn a lot from your peers in terms of ethical conduct, integrity and good governance. We have annual continuous development programmes that keep us up to date with best practices locally and internationally. We work with professionals and great mentors who bring ideas to life. The company provides the resources for one to succeed and break away from any doubts one might have,” points out Dr. Igboamalu.
“I believe in continuous learning and development. There is both formalised and informal mentoring with the professionals we interact with in the different projects. Mentorship is key to a successful career, and I have had the privilege to be part of this,” highlights Dr. Igboamalu, who has mentored Masters and undergraduate students at the University of Pretoria.
He was also introduced to a Youth Engagement Forum Initiative, as well as a secondary school science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills transfer programme in Diepsloot. “I am able to share my love of engineering, research and the positive impact the profession can have on society in terms of future-ready engineers and leaders.”
Dr. Igboamalu states that his driving passion is sustainability and understanding the link between water and poverty alleviation. “My aim is to improve the lives of impoverished communities throughout Africa by being involved in projects that directly affect their access to critical resources such as water.
“My work in the water sector and as an environmental researcher is focusing my research portfolio on improving and developing water and sanitation infrastructure and environmental sustainability to benefit communities.” Dr. Igboamalu stresses that access to water is critical during the current Covid-19 crisis, in addition to the effective management, operation and maintenance of our potable water supply.
“I would like to see a continent where all African children have access to clean water and sanitation. I believe that effective solutions in this regard can be supplied by an effective engineering advisory role in addressing water and sanitation problems through the combination of engineering solution with finance, investment and economics,” adds Dr. Igboamalu.
His message for Youth Month 2020 is that young engineers should understand why they studied engineering at university. “Tertiary education only equips us, but our career development depends on our personal efforts. Secondly, good mentorship is the key to success. Find someone that will mentor or make a meaningful impact in your life.”
Behind every successful young engineer is an extensive support structure, and Dr. Igboamalu pays tribute to his family. “My dad, Chief Francis Igboamalu, who passed away recently, has been my backbone and spiritual guide. In addition, my brothers Dr. Christian Igboamalu, Dr. Frank Igboamalu and Henry Igboamalu have been very supportive. Lastly, my wife and two beautiful boys gives me courage to go beyond my limits.”
Aurecon has partnered with the Programme for Technological Careers (PROTEC) since 2011 in a bid to increase opportunities for young learners and youth to pursue STEM careers. This allows the company to contribute towards the National Development Programme goals by advancing STEM education in South Africa.
Other initiatives include partnering with the Scientific and Industrial Leadership Initiative (SAILI) since 2014, which promotes tertiary studies in scarce skill industry by providing maths and science scholarships to low-income families. This year one of the sponsored learners pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering at the University of Cape Town was awarded an Aurecon bursary. Employees also provide learners with tutoring opportunities, mentorship and guidance programmes, interactive job shadowing sessions and various skills development workshops.
An external undergraduate bursary scheme is available for undergraduate studies at various tertiary institutions, in fields specifically related to the company’s activities. Aurecon currently has 44 external bursars in civil, mechanical, electrical/electronic, mechatronics, chemical and industrial engineering at several tertiary institutions, including the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, the University of Pretoria and the University of the Witwatersrand. Of these bursars, 75% are black candidates and 43% are female.