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LHDA guides the next generation of professionals;

appoints 30 young professionals under LHWP Young Professionals Programme

 

MASERU: The Young Professionals programme under the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is offering young professionals an opportunity to be involved in one of the biggest water infrastructure projects in southern Africa. This includes being integrated into the consultancies designing the main components of Phase II, the Polihali Dam and Polihali Transfer Tunnel; the social and environmental components, and many of the advance infrastructure components.

Thirty young professionals are currently engaged on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. They are civil engineers, electrical engineers, geologists, architects, environmentalists, economists and sociologists; bright, ambitious and keen to learn.

For these young professionals, participation in a project of this magnitude is a rare opportunity. The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) established the Young Professionals (YP) programme to provide learning opportunities for young professionals from the two member states: Lesotho and South Africa, to facilitate the skills transfer and capacity building which underpin Phase II.

“The programme targets young professionals, especially graduates from tertiary institutions with no work experience and aims to address the problem of an inadequate skills market, by providing them with work experience. We want graduates from both Lesotho and South Africa to be guided into developing their career paths. On the completion of Phase II we should have a group of young people who have gained valuable on the job experience under the guidance of LHDA’s experienced mentors to ensure overall employability and marketability,”  CE, Tente Tente, says.

The Phase II Young Professionals programme is achieving its purpose as it has already produced passionate and highly skilled professionals, successful achievers in their specific project areas.

Khuthadzo Bulala is a young geologist who was recruited into the programme in 2015. She took her six-month internship with JG Afrika as an engineering geologist, gaining experience in logging, goniometer readings and site supervision on the Phase II geotechnical investigations. She is now a full time geologist with JG Africa’s geotechnical investigations division.  “I attribute my success to LHDA. I was hired as an intern attached to JG Afrika. I proved myself through hard work in those six months and was offered a permanent position at JG Afrika. Had I not been a member of the YP programme, I might never have met the JG Afrika team.”

Moeketsi Max Rabolinyane is another geologist who attributes his budding career to the LHDA’s YP programme. Armed with a BSC Honours in Geology and no experience, Moeketsi joined the YP programme in 2015 eager to absorb the knowledge that he would get from working as part of the Diabor team responsible for the geotechnical investigations for the Polihali Dam and Transfer Tunnel.  During his internship he honed his skills in drilling and site measurements. His hard work paid off and he was employed by Diabor at the end of his contract with LHDA.

“The YP programme helped my career to take off and I wish more young geologists can be trained under Phase II as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am also willing to teach a few interns a thing or two about dam geotechnical investigations.”

LHDA’s acting Human Resources Manager, Mrs Relebohile Makakole, confirms that the programme continues to attract inexperienced graduates from Lesotho and South Africa. “We have attracted a pool of capable and competent graduates in a number of different fields. However, there is still a relative scarcity of applicants in certain fields such as civil engineering. The LHDA intends to expand its search by using more diverse platforms to reach a wider group of Lesotho and South African graduates.”

The thirty young professionals currently recruited under the YP programme have been placed with consulting firms and contractors engaged on various Phase II contracts. The programme is one of the strategies to maximise skills transfer and local participation as required by the Phase II Agreement.  With twenty-six Lesotho and four South African nationals already placed, the programme is moving ahead. Seventeen of the young professionals are male while thirteen are female, eight of whom are engineers denting the cultural stereotype that engineering is a man’s field.

Pitso Pitso is a sociologist who is benefitting from the current YP programme. Pitso joined the Phase II compensation team in April 2019. His role is data verification, a critical component of the compensation process to ensure fair compensation to communities affected by the project. For him, the YP programme is a stepping stone which will help him in his career path. He plans to focus on studying cultures, norms and behaviours of various groups of people.

“Being in this programme gives me an opportunity to do what I love which is helping people and resolving conflicts,” says ‘Maemile Kala, a social worker placed with Makhetha Development Consultants engaged on  resettlement planning and implementation for  the Polihali Western Access Corridor area. ‘Maemile, through initiating dialogue with the affected communities, is perfecting her skills in community engagement and public speaking which she will need to further her career in social work.

Liteboho Matsoso who was recruited into the programme in April 2019 is gaining new skills in the analysis of construction materials. As a young civil engineer, working with the SMEC/FMA JV quality and materials engineering team is ideal. “I am now able to analyse field density results of soils according to the Committee of Land Transport Officials (COLTO), which is part of the project specifications. I have even developed an interest in furthering my studies with a major in Construction Materials and would one day like to be a Pavement Design Engineer.”

The Young Professionals programme is an initiative open to newly qualified professionals from Lesotho and South Africa who are under the age of 35 and have not previously been employed in a full time capacity for a period exceeding six months in the fields of civil engineering, geotechnical engineering, surveying, quantity surveying, engineering, architecture, social and natural sciences and public health. Successful candidates are employed by the LHDA for between six and 24 months.

Though the construction activities at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II have been suspended temporarily due to the lockdown, construction had made some positive strides with nine construction works contracts underway. These include the Polihali North Eastern Access Road, diversion tunnels, civil works at Polihali and Katse, the Polihali Western Access Road, the Northern Access Road, two bulk power lines (33kv and 132kv), the temporary 33kv line and the 132/33/11 kV substation at Polihali and the upgrade of existing substations from Maputsoe to Katse.  The projects are at varying stages of implementation. These are important elements of the advance infrastructure works which should largely be completed in time for the commencement of the main water transfer works.

Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project comprises highly technical engineering, social and environmental components offering learning opportunities for young professionals from multiple disciplines. It is a growth opportunity; an opportunity not to be missed.

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