“I’m drawn to talent”: How a young engineer helped struggling graduates in Ontario

In Ontario, Canada, the pandemic has been affecting graduates’ mental health and denying them opportunities to network with employers. In response to that, globetrotting young engineer Dr Hamza Momade MCIOB helped organise the province’s first student project-management competition, which caught on like wildfire among students and employers. GCR’s Rod Sweet caught up with him to find out more.

RS: I see you’ve already studied and worked in various countries. Tell us a bit about your background.

HM: I’m from Mozambique. It was a challenge growing up because we didn’t have schools or reliable electricity, so I studied in the kitchen from sunrise to sunset. When I and four others sat the GCSE exams, we were the first to do so in the country. I was the only one of that group to pass university entrance exams and I did my Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering at the University of East London. I landed my first job with a CIOB Chartered Company and became a Chartered Member. I completed my Master in Civil Engineering and PhD from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, and I’ve been involved in design and construction management of warehouses, commercial and residential spaces in Malaysia, Singapore and now Canada.

RS: What led you to set up the Ontario Project Management Competition?

Before the pandemic there were many networking events that allowed students to showcase their talent. But with face-to-face events cancelled, it has been tough creating good rapport virtually. Poor mental health is on the rise as graduates struggle with student loans. Canada also has a large influx of foreign skilled workers competing for the entry level jobs, so it all mounts up.

RS: How does the competition work, and what has the response been like?

HM: It has been taking place for six years in Vancouver and we adopted the idea for Ontario with help from the Project Management Institute (Toronto) and Wideman Education Foundation. Teams of three to five students present a project that supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Their idea has to be costed and scheduled and must follow all the principles of project management. They speak for 15 minutes, and then take questions from the judges for 15 minutes. Everyone has to say something. The judges are professional project managers.

The response was great. Twenty-four teams from colleges and universities around the province submitted projects, and 12 were selected as finalists on 20 February. The finals took place on 27 March.

Employers liked the idea, too. Nine showed an interest in sponsoring the competition, and we picked four. The lead sponsor is one of Ontario’s biggest developers.

RS: And what do you get from it?

HM: I just felt I wanted to help, and I wanted to shine a spotlight on the talent that’s there under the surface. I’m drawn to talent. The industry needs it to improve productivity and innovation. I believe construction is not just about building, but building lasting relationships.

Image: Dr. Hamza Momade MCIOB is a project manager for Canadian residential developer, Averton (Supplied)

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