Engineering and architecture company GIBB technologist Onke Ngacu has been appointed chairperson of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (Saice) Amathole region.
She is the first black woman to hold the position.
Ngacu has committed herself to upholding the Saice mission of advancing professional knowledge and improving the practice of civil engineering, which the organisation does by holding regular talks, facilitating training and skills upgrades for its 315 local members and through events encouraging school pupils to study engineering.
Of the engineering industry as a whole, Ngacu said there was still a need to change the legacy culture so that the field becomes more accepting of women in a cultural and a practical sense.
“It is exhausting for women to have to constantly prove themselves,” she said.
She explained that another industry challenge was a lack of structures to absorb new engineering graduates into the workforce.
“We need to be more open to employing black diploma and B.Tech graduates, and to make sure they have clear career paths through to eventually registering with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).”
Another of her priorities is being part of the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) advisory board, to ensure the institution’s engineering faculty retains its ECSA accreditation.
“WSU is a rich source of black engineers for our industry in the Eastern Cape,” she said, adding that it is important for the university to remain accredited and to build recognition for itself.
Despite these industry challenges, Ngacu said there has been progress and that working at GIBB is deeply fulfilling.
“Over my 11 years at the company, I’ve had the honour of seeing projects right through from inception to close-out, and felt the satisfaction of seeing clean potable water emerge from a tap after working on a water project for years.”
She said her role at Saice was rewarding in that it gives her a chance to be hands-on in developing the industry.