President of the Institution for Professional Engineers (I.P.E.S.) Samoa, Matamu James Moeono, presented a $10,000 cheque for 10 science students of the National University of Samoa. The scheme, in its 10th year now, pushes science students to do engineering.
Matamu said there needs to be more emphasis on the engineering profession. He said it’s critical to our country’s economic sustainability to encourage more students into the field engineering, which is why the professional body continues to award science students at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.).
“It’s a profession that our economy depends on,” Matamu said. “That is why I.P.E.S. is trying to work together with the university to ensure that students know about this profession. A lot of students here in Samoa don’t know about engineering, so that’s why we want to work closely with N.U.S. to let our science students know that there are other professions that exist.”
Matamu says it’s time for Samoa to take ownership of their work and place their trust in their own talent. According to him, there is no one size fits all model for engineering and relying on foreign engineers who are brought in to undertake our major projects here on the island can result in unnecessary mistakes.
“A lot of assistance both financial and expertise came from overseas. Some of the developments our Government is doing are more suited for overseas and not our local conditions. We have high rise buildings that some of the buildings they close up, this is a tropical island – we want the design to suit us.
“Our local engineers know our local conditions. We know what our people want. It’s like our roads, we have tropical rains where rainfall fill buckets compared to the rain showers in New Zealand. But the New Zealand companies they come and help out and they apply their standards, but it’s not right because the conditions are not the same and therefore the designs cannot be the same.”
He believes it needs to start from the top and policies need to change to involve a professional body of engineers to be involved in major building projects in Samoa.
“The Institution of Professional Engineers Samoa is trying to bridge a gap and work with Government and make sure that they know we exist. We are the unsung heroes that do a lot of work in the background, but we are not involved with the strategy.
“There are lots of government policies that engineers need to be involved in, for example evaluation of major projects, I.P.E.S. doesn’t have any say but we should be involved with those projects.
“The threat from the Governments’ point of view is they are thinking that we are coming in and there will be a conflict of interest and corrupt practices. But we are just a body and the President will make the call on who will be the right person to sit in on those evaluations.
“Right now, there are a lot of major projects that are written by people who have no understanding of the technical stuff, so those are the things that need attention because a lot of palagis or donors send the money in for developments and they also send their own people in to do the work as part of their strategy, which is not good.
Send the money, we have engineers who can do it and they will do a better job compared to the ones who come from overseas.”
The I.P.E.S. has come a long way and Matamu acknowledges that things are better than they used to be, but that they have a long way to go in institutionalising the value of a profession in engineering among our young people.
“Back in our time when we were here, we didn’t know what engineering was all about because there were no systems back then like now. Unlike students in New Zealand and Australia who know about civil engineering at school so they get taught and get informed before they get university.
“Us here, it’s not there yet. That’s the work we’re doing as a professional institution is to work with students as well as the Government is pushing for science students to do engineering.”