Held this year under the theme of ‘Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World’, globally trusted infrastructure consulting firm AECOM is celebrating International Youth Day on Saturday 12 August by showcasing the important role played by some of its young candidate engineers in sustainable transport.
Chris Britz, Transport Operations Leader and Market Sector Leader Transit at AECOM Africa recently held a roundtable where the younger engineers on the transport team discussed the impact of the transport system on the environment and the need to incorporate sustainability concerns into projects. The discussion also considered the impact of environmental changes and future-proofing infrastructure to be more resilient.
Only at AECOM for three months, Dipolelo Madumo is a traffic and transportation engineer assisting the design team on modelling for ongoing projects in the US. Locally, he is also giving input into the Integrated Transport Master Plan for Gauteng.
Dipolelo says he is impressed at how AECOM takes complex international projects in its stride. “It is an interesting work environment in that it is high impact, global projects, whereas previously I only had exposure to local projects.” It provides for invaluable experience as he progresses towards professional registration.
After graduating in 2016, Anneri Maritz continued with her Master’s and joined AECOM in 2018. She is currently an Assistant Resident Engineer (ARE) or Engineering Representative who has been on-site at a major road project in the Western Cape since August 2022. The project is currently halfway and has commenced with layer works, drainage and ancillary works. It has proved challenging due to its location in a catchment area, but Anneri adds it has been an “exciting and interesting” experience.
“What I know today, I have learned from AECOM, and I am very grateful for that,” says Anneri. She initially started out with the bridges team, which gave her some exposure to structural engineering, and then transitioned into the transport team and her current ARE role. . Anneri highlights that AECOM allows candidate engineers to gain the experience necessary for professional registration.
“When I finish this project and go back to the design office, my practical experience will allow me to give valuable contributions. It is one thing to design something on paper, but is it constructible? Learning how people interpret your drawings on-site, especially as you are not there to explain it, develops a critical skillset. AECOM afforded me the opportunity to gain experience in both the design and construction phases,” says Anneri.
Reabetswe Kodisang is another fresh starter at AECOM and has collaborated on a project with Dipolelo. She graduated in 2017 with a BEng Civil Engineering degree and later furthered her studies and obtained her honours in 2021. She has had exposure to traffic engineering and transportation projects, as well as design and construction supervision. Commenting on the importance of resilient transport infrastructure, Reabetswe says that while it all starts at the concept or design phase, it has to filter through to the actual construction, operation and then maintenance, and how the infrastructure is perceived and utilised by the end users.
“The people are the end users of any transport system and that is where education takes place. We really need to educate our fellow users on how to use transport infrastructure in a more sustainable manner,” says Reabetswe. This includes a holistic overview of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) concerns on any project. “We need to look at the inclusive impact of all these factors on any project.”
Reabetswe says that the opportunity to have a roundtable discussion with her colleagues and a seasoned veteran like Chris is a great opportunity and also highlights the importance of engineers and engineering. “It opens our mind to the bigger picture. All disciplines involved in a particular project should have a similar discussion as to how to come up with the most efficient and effective means of accommodating all aspects of ESG.”
Dipolelo concurs: “You need an understanding from all different angles. Perceptions are important, and that is where the end users come in. If the end users are not happy, you have not done a good job. This is despite the fact that the client is footing the bill, which means we often take on an advisory or intermediate role between the client and the end users. It does pose a challenge, because we are essentially in the middle and need to weigh up the pros and cons for all stakeholders.”
Anneri adds that such internal, multidisciplinary discussions are important to educate candidate engineers. “We can actually introduce discussions like this more often as I think it all boils down to mindset. Getting people to talk about a topic obviously requires some thinking, so everyone can develop ideas. If you have this platform to share and discuss those ideas, you broaden your perspective.”
“People can see things from a different viewpoint. In the end, it is easier to get everyone onboard and move forward collectively as a project team. Group interaction and discussions definitely strengthen the drive to keep ESG at the top of the agenda for any project,” concludes Anneri.