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‘I’m drawn to talent’

Engineer Dr Hamza Momade helped organise a project management competition in Ontario, Canada, for students struggling to showcase their talent during the pandemic. Rod Sweet spoke to him
Dr Hamza Momade
Dr Hamza Momade MCIOB is a project manager for Canadian residential developer Averton

Tell us about your background.

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 bachelor’s 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’s 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.

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.

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

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.

“I wanted to help spotlight the talent that’s there under the surface of the industry, which it needs to improve productivity and innovation”

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 for 15 minutes from the judges, who 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.

And what do you get from it?

I’m drawn to talent. I wanted to help spotlight the talent that’s there under the surface of the industry, which it needs to improve productivity and innovation. I believe construction is not just about building, but also building lasting relationships.

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