With a total of 170,000 engineers in Saudi Arabia, and $106.6bn (SR400bn) worth of construction projects, the Saudi Council of Engineers (SCE) aims to promote standards and boost local skills. Gerhard Hope speaks to chairman Arch. Hamad N.A. Al-Shagawi
The main aim of the Saudi Council of Engineers (SCE), as stated on a promotional brochure, is to “promote the engineering profession, facilitate ideal solutions, enhance performance levels and encourage innovation and creativity to achieve an internationally-recognised position.”
This might seem like a tall order, but it is one that Hamad N. A. Al-Shagawi is determined to fill during his three-year tenure as chairman. An architect by training, Al-Shagawi is also president of Al Waseed Contracting & Management and Afniah Consultants.
“I am an architect, and I have a consultant’s office. So my experience is in design and urban planning, and now industrial design as well,” explains Al-Shagawi, who has been SCE chairman since March 2011.
Recounting how he came to fill this position, he says: “This is a funny story. Before I was chairman, I used to be an ordinary member. I was like the opposition, not liking what they were doing, when somebody said, why do you not become chairman and show us what you are going to do?”
Al-Shagawi was quick to take up the cudgel, and thereby transform the SCE into the bastion of the engineering profession in Saudi Arabia.
“We are the main organiser of engineering work in the Kingdom, and that power has been allocated by the government. Our ten-member board is fully-elected by the engineers themselves.
Actually we prepare for this election like six months ahead.” The SCE is an umbrella organisation covering all engineering disciplines, from architecture to consulting.
Al-Shagawi is a tireless champion of best practice.
“I have been on so many committees,” he says. “We like to give engineers the opportunity to participate in our work, which is why we establish such committees, from development to technical. We really select them very carefully, and they work.
The SCE is very much a team effort. We face a lot of criticism from the community. Actually we are not yet, I feel, on the right track of doing what we really set out to achieve.”
This is a refreshing example of Al-Shagawi’s commitment to both the SCE and the engineering profession in general, and his view of what it is capable of achieving.
“From the highest level, from the King to the Crown Prince, we have so much respect for engineers, you will not believe it.
You know in our country they respect the religious people; we come second. And this I have heard from the highest level of officials. They respect the engineers; they think they are the magic solution to all the problems.”
Al-Shagawi admits that the engineering profession in Saudi Arabia faces its own particular challenges and problems. This is partly due to the scale of the social infrastructure projects in hand, with the Kingdom requiring a million housing units within the next five years simply to cope with population growth.
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