Armando D. Ngojo is an Engineering Institute of Technology graduate who recently completed our 52705WA - Advanced Diploma of Biomedical Engineering.
Currently working in the healthcare engineering industry for a company that maintains and manages medical equipment, Armando has spent fifteen years in the technological side of the medical industry. However, Armando’s interest in engineering began at a young age.
“When I was younger, I was very fascinated with the functionality of the transistor radio. I opened it up and saw a lot of small things and components which fired up my curiosity. I was amazed at how a television worked. How a refrigerator cooled the items inside of it intrigued me.”
In his secondary school years, he pursued his love for technology further by enrolling in an elective that covered electricity & electronics. After high school, he began to pursue a career in Electronics Engineering. However, Armando’s road to an engineering career was not an easy one.
“When I was in college, I went through a lot of ups and downs. Initially, in 1996, I was a freshman scholar with tuition discounts but it was abruptly terminated after the first semester only. I failed the cut-off grades to maintain the discounted fees,” explained Armando.
“I was also out of university the following year due to financial issues. In order for me to continue my studies in the year after my hiatus, I became a working student and helped my family survive while pursuing my degree.”
In college, Armando had the opportunity to work with simple medical equipment like suction machines and OT lights in conjunction with his studies at college. It was in that role where his interest in the healthcare engineering industry was sparked.
After graduating from college, Armando got a job at a local medical sales and service company in the Philippines as a Biomedical Service Engineer. This role unlocked a world of opportunities, which resulted in Armando working full-time in Malaysia for seven years, Vietnam for one year, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai for more than five years.
After many years of working in the industry, Armando felt that he wanted to take the next step in advancing his career. He went on a search for a biomedical engineering course that would allow him to upskill even further, and that is when he discovered EIT. He noticed our Advanced Diploma in Biomedical Engineering was exactly what he needed.
“I took the course because although I was already working in the healthcare industry for the last 15 years, I lacked a proper school qualification. This is due to my home country; in the Philippines, no university was hosting a real course in Biomedical Engineering in my time.”
Since he has graduated, Armando has found that his daily responsibilities at work have become easier to manage.
“Professionally, I got a promotion within my company and was given more responsibilities, and of course, better remuneration. My newly acquired qualification also opened up a lot of opportunities for me. Being an EIT graduate was a power credential in my portfolio.”
He is now waiting for EIT to begin hosting a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering so that he can continue building on his knowledge base in the technological realm of the healthcare industry. He concluded:
“I am very interested in pursuing further studies in this field due to the fact that with my current job requirements, the face to face interaction with medical officers like nurses, lab technicians, radiographers, and doctors are always imminent. I need to learn how to converse with them using medical terminologies they understand. I am talking to them with more self-assurance after graduating with EIT.”
Armando is fascinated by the developments occurring in the biomedical engineering industry. He says that the emergence of AI and 3D printing of organs has been particularly interesting to watch. He says the course through EIT delved into some of those topics and opened his eyes to the development occurring in the space. As the industry continues to grow, he sees his career growing.
“My career maturing in the upcoming years is a definite! I know that the industry that I am currently in will become very competitive in the coming years, but I am very confident that I will survive because my years of extensive experience in the industry are already backed up by my proper and formal school qualification achieved through one of the best technical schools in Australia: EIT.”
Islam Sarwat graduated from EIT in 2015 with a 52742WA - Advanced Diploma of Plant Engineering. Before completing the program, he was an in-training operation and mechanical engineer. He noticed that he had some spare time on his hands and a dream to attain a senior engineering job in the future.
Islam chose this particular program because, he says, it was comprehensive and covered a lot of material that would improve his knowledge and enhance his skills. He also knew it would help him find direction in his career.
“My studies helped orient me in choosing which engineering industry to go into. The engineering industry has a lot of different varieties and disciplines. Instead of one particular field, it includes many different fields.”
Islam found that the pathways to being hired in a high-level job became more likely after completing the plant engineering program.
“Life was better. I felt that I did what should be done to enhance my skills. I extracted immense value from my studying with EIT. The course definitely added to my skill set in my work environment.”
After three years of studying, he got what he was hoping for: Islam was appointed as a project lead in the new extension of the plant for the company he was working for in the Industrial Gases industry. His daily responsibilities include:
Islam is looking forward to the future challenges his career in engineering may throw at him. And now, he is looking to the next career challenge of leveling up to more senior (and managerial) positions.
“I have met the challenges that have come as my career has matured. I overcame these challenges, developed my skills, and improved myself by studying and training in my field. I for sure, have a better future. I plan to improve my managerial skills to shift from the technical world to managerial positions.”
Legal Wise, a law institute in South Africa, defines retrenchment quite aptly, “Retrenchment is a form of dismissal due to no fault of the employee, it is a process whereby the employer reviews its business needs in order to increase profits or limit losses, which leads to reducing its employees.”
In some instances, automation has meant that some jobs no longer require human intervention. For example, in the banking sector, many physical branches have closed down or downsized as Internet banking takes over.
In the engineering world, mining companies have also been badly hit. For example, in September 2019, mining conglomerate Sibanye-Stillwater indicated that 5,270 jobs (or roughly 6% of their workforce) would have to be cut after financial losses at their mines. In 2017, Platinum producer Lonmin announced that it would lay off 12,600 workers over three years.
However, while some jobs are no longer as in-demand as they once were, advances in technology mean new roles are being created all the time. Here are some tips for surviving retrenchment.
Tweak your CV and get back to job hunting
Updating your curriculum vitae to be in line with modern recruitment practices is essential. Our Dean of Engineering at EIT, Steve Mackay, has a few tips on where to begin with your CV.
“First of all, ensure your CV is designed for the particular job you are applying for,” he said.
“Your CV should use plain English and the information should be laid out simply and logically…and leave lots of white space. Grammar and spelling must be one hundred percent accurate.
“Avoid too much detail; the CV that is 20 pages long is not acceptable. An executive summary at the top of the resume is a good idea. Be specific! Focus on the job you really want. Your CV should also include business strengths and business wins.”
You can also utilize your network here. Check up on previous employers, see if they have any vacant positions you could fill. Talk to colleagues and friends you have amassed along the way in your career. Your next job could be a phone call away.
Upskilling for the future of work
Growing your skillset is imperative. Many industries are automating more and more of their operations, which may leave the role you are performing redundant. Therefore, undertaking professional development in cutting edge areas of the engineering industry is essential.
The Engineering Institute of Technology provides professional certificates of competency, diplomas, advanced diplomas, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in crucial engineering disciplines with updated curriculums that prepare you for the technologies you can expect to see in the workplaces of the future.
Market your skills as a freelancer or an independent contractor to get work after you have been retrenched from a company. Depending on where you are in your career, you could continue doing that for a reasonable amount of time. In fact, some engineers are noticing that they can also create several side-hustles that generate money they can use to achieve even bigger things later on in life.
Retrenchment doesn’t have to be the end of the world for you. It can be the beginning of a new chapter in the book of your career. Keeping a level head and carrying on with making the most of the skills you have amassed, or looking into educating yourself further, are all important mechanisms to surviving any tough patch.
Retrenchment Tracker: South Africa's Big Corporate Job Losses in 2019 - so Far, www.businessinsider.co.za/total-number-of-job-losses-south-africa-retrenchment-corporate-job-losses-2019-6.
“Retrenchment Process and Procedure: QuickLaw Guide.” LegalWise, www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/retrenchment.
Lucinda Krige is a South African inspiration. She is a qualified Marine Engineer Officer who, since 2003, has been working for renowned seafood processing company Sea Harvest. She currently works as a HR Business Partner in Learning and Development at Sea Harvest.
She was the first woman to qualify as a Chief Engineer in the fishing industry in South Africa. The sector produces 80 million tons of food and employs 40 million people across the globe.
Sea Harvest is a company that was established in 1964 on the Atlantic West Coast of South Africa. They are headquartered in Saldanha in the Western Cape. They catch and package seafood, exporting it to 22 countries.
Lucinda, being the first female engineering cadet in the fisheries industry to rise up the ranks to become a Chief Engineer, is a role model to the many unemployed youths in South Africa who are desperately seeking the kinds of opportunities she has worked for.
Lucinda started with Sea Harvest as an engineering cadet in 2003. Sea Harvest, at the time, was recruiting cadets via the newspaper. Lucinda’s father drew her attention to the article, saying she should perhaps pursue it.
“I asked him what it was about - he didn’t know, and neither did I,” she said.
“But, I applied and was successful. When I boarded my first vessel, that is when I started to discover what marine engineering was all about, and life at sea - the rest is history.”
At the age of 20, Lucina began the grueling process of practically learning the ins and outs of the technologically advanced trawler vessels used in the fishing industry. She had to learn everything from the operation to the maintenance of the fishing vessels during her time as a cadet. Almost every single time she boarded a ship, she was the only woman on board.
“When you start out in the field, you start as an engineering officer, that’s the first level,” she said.
“You start with the basic knowledge of various disciplines. That is where your workshop training comes in, because those are your hand-skills, that you have to get under the knee.
“For instance, your winch system onboard the vessel includes hydraulics, pneumatics, and electronics. Then there is refrigeration, electrical, engines — which is the mechanical part, and controls section. You start out with a cluster of skills that you need to familiarize yourself with.”
For a detailed look at the five years of of theoretical training and work experience Lucinda conducted to obtain her qualification as chief engineer, watch her chat with me here:
Breaking the glass ceiling
Lucinda and her father took a keen interest in stories of female engineers in the newspapers. This, coupled with her love for mathematics and science, led to her pursuing a career in the engineering industry. She says working in a male-dominated industry was not too intimidating to her.
“The funny thing about my career choice is that when I was little, my father would always ask what I wanted to be when I grow up. This was back in the 80s. I had this thing of wanting to be a policewoman. My father asked why I wanted to do it, and I said it was something that I didn’t see a lot of women doing.
“When I was in primary school, I came home with the newspaper that had an article in it about the first female civil engineer in South Africa that was part of a bridge project. That’s when I decided I wanted to do engineering.”
It has been eleven years since Lucinda was sea-bound as an engineering cadet with Sea Harvest. She now chuckles when she says she has ‘hung up her overalls’ for an on-shore job.
She now heads up the technical and maritime training at Sea Harvest’ Saldanha headquarters. She ensures that the curriculum is up to date in accordance with the vessels so that the ships can be safely manned.
The training helps both those who have no formal qualifications and those who do, level up in the maritime industry in the country. Lucinda sits on advisory committees and is a fishing industry representative that speaks at government events as well. Sea Harvest takes in unemployed youth in South Africa and puts them through an apprenticeship program that helps them become artisans in the fishing industry in South Africa.
While the Engineering Institute of Technology has campuses in Perth, Western Australia, and Melbourne, Victoria, we predominantly run as an online institute that sees thousands of students logging in and out every day. For students who are part of our online learning cohort, internet connectivity is imperative.
We are proud to have students from all over the world who have earned Australian accredited diplomas and degrees through our unique online delivery model. We are, however, aware of the challenges many countries face with limited internet connectivity.
According to Internet World Stats, there are 525,148,631 internet users in Africa. The continent’s population is said to be 1.216 billion people, according to estimates compiled in 2016. About 690 million people are, therefore, without access to life-changing internet technologies.
In 2017, the United Nations (UN) reported that more than half of the world’s population still does not have access to the internet, with Asia and Africa facing the lowest connection rate. It has now set a goal for universal access to the internet — which would equate to 90 percent of the world population — by 2050.
Facebook and Amazon have been experimenting with the research and development of internet-for-all technologies. Engineers are deeply involved in how nations connect to the internet. While philanthropic companies undertake the challenge of creating new, still-to-be-debuted, mobile internet technologies, the tech that connects the world to the internet has its fair share of maintenance issues.
How is the internet provided to the world?
Ninety-nine percent of international internet data is transmitted through a series of submarine cables spread across the ocean floor across the globe. There are 300 undersea cables transmitting data underwater, ensuring nations get internet connectivity.
However, when these connections become damaged, the internet traffic from the directly affected countries is rerouted through working cables. This impacts speed and accessibility.
For example, on the west coast of Africa, the West Africa Cable System (WACS) and South Atlantic 3 (SAT3) form international links that connect southern Africa to the world.
WACS connects South Africa with the United Kingdom. The SAT3 cable connects South Africa to Portugal and Spain. Both of these cables were damaged by gale winds earlier this year, impacting the entire collection of southern African internet service providers.
On the east coast of Africa, the SEACOM and EASSy cables are receiving rerouted international internet traffic from the western parts of the country where the cables are down.
This meant internet service providers had to continue buying international bandwidth from SEACOM to keep international traffic ticking along for their consumers.
The future of internet connectivity
Are undersea cables set to be the norm for internet connectivity a century from now? Is South Africa’s cautionary tale of gale-force winds and broken undersea cables enough food-for-thought for engineers to come up with more innovative ways of connecting the world to the internet?
Some internet service providers in southern Africa offer competitively priced high-speed satellite internet. Satellite internet is useful, especially in rural areas that do not have fixed and wireless internet infrastructure. South African born Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX, has recently launched a satellite network named Starlink that will help provide low-cost internet to remote locations.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given the company clearance to launch 12,000 small satellites and may allow them to push the number to 42,000 in the future. Around 242 satellites are already in space. Ongoing research and development of internet technologies, such as SpaceX’s Starlink, are going to have to go into hyperdrive to meet the UN’s target of 90% of the earth’s population being connected by 2050.
“Africa Internet Users, 2019 Population and Facebook Statistics.” Internet World Stats, www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm.
Mann, Adam. “Starlink: SpaceX's Satellite Internet Project.” Space.com, Space, 17 Jan. 2020, www.space.com/spacex-starlink-satellites.html.