Career Growth, ED&I, Graduate Growth

From top left to right: Namitha Thomas, Grace Mpai, Kashmah Al Hashmi, and Noluthando Nkosi

At AECOM, diversity and inclusion are more than just policies, a headcount or a one-off program. We are committed to employing talented people and supporting them to achieve their highest potential. Our employees reflect the diversity of our clients, markets and communities where we operate, and their diverse capabilities enable AECOM to anticipate and fulfil our clients’ needs. ​

Across the Middle East and Africa, we have embedded programs that elevate graduates and junior talent with the purpose of creating a focused learning and mentoring environment which supports diversity and accelerates their career.

Clear focus on equity, diversity and inclusion

Most graduates look for companies that pledge equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) commitments and contributions.

Namitha Thomas, a graduate environmental scientist based in the UAE, agree that it was crucial to begin their careers with an organization that has a clear focus on ED&I.

 “Since joining AECOM, I have always felt that my uniqueness is celebrated,” said Namitha. “The most amazing aspect is that AECOM strives to expand its understanding of the ever-evolving ED&I principles and strives to become a beacon, extending far beyond its business lines.”

Opportunities for all in the Middle East

In the Middle East, our two-year Advance Graduate Program equips graduates with the necessary skills to kick-start their careers. Comprising a range of core competencies, mentoring and training, graduates take part in site visits as well as social and networking events contributing to their professional growth and development.

Our Advance Program is highly celebrated for its diversity and inclusion. In UAE  this year, the team welcomed its most diverse intake since the program’s inception eight years ago. As part of a wider diversity and inclusion plan, the scheme attracted a graduate intake comprising nine different nationalities and an equal gender split. In Bahrain, which has been offering the Advance Program since 2016, the gender split for the current cohort is 40 percent female and 60 percent male, a further year-on-year improvement.

 “An increased focus by our recruiters allowed our hiring managers to interview a portfolio of different candidates against each role,” said Beth Cowper, talent acquisition lead, Middle East & Africa. This ensured we are not hiring diverse candidates for the sake of it, but that they are the optimum fit for the role itself.”

Earlier this year, we celebrated the launch of our 2021 Graduate Development Program in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 34 new graduates were recruited across our end markets to join some of the Kingdom’s most exciting projects, adding invaluable support to our clients. “The recruitment of bright, diverse and talented Saudi graduates is an essential part of our contribution to the objectives of the KSA Vision 2030,” said Mousa Mashraqi, VP of HR and Shared Services. “Our clients certainly appreciate and benefit from young and energized talent, and we’re excited to play a part of their development.”

Kashmah Ali Alhashmi is a graduate civil engineer in Saudi Arabia and says that diversity contributes to developing innovation and creativity. “I was looking for a workplace with a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion because it increases my performance and it makes an employee feel encompassed and important,” she said

Mentoring for success in South Africa

In South Africa, the Candidacy Support and Mentoring Program is customized around each candidate’s personal development journey to assist them with gaining professional registration.

Grace Mpai, a graduate technologist in Buildings + Places, is part of the program in South Africa. “This program has taught me more than just what lies ahead in my career, but that diversity affects my career from who I work with and how I relate to people from different backgrounds and cultures,” she said. “It is because of those differences that there is more to learn and to even teach each other.”

Noluthando Nkosi, a candidate quantity surveyor who is also part of the program, said: “When I was looking for a company, diversity was one of the key elements. I wanted to be in an environment that boosted my confidence and allowed me to be confident in my abilities and this program has given me that.”

Grace continued to note how ED&I is not just a moral issue. “Studies indicate that a more diverse workforce results in a positive impact on the bottom line for businesses,” she said. “Initially, I was not looking for an ED&I-focused company, but I am appreciative of the fact that AECOM is a company that celebrates our differences.”

Creating opportunities for championing diversity

This evolving employment landscape has encouraged graduates to seek ways to develop and articulate their commitment to ED&I, as well as promoting AECOM’s values and understanding early on the importance of diverse collaboration.

Namitha, meanwhile, is working with a team to develop GroundZ, an inclusive platform that aims to reduce educational inequality by facilitating learning opportunities for disadvantaged youth and empowering them for holistic excellence through adaptive learning pathways & AI-driven innovation labs. “In a world marked with increasing inequalities, many children cannot afford to dream,” she said. “There is approximately 267 million youth worldwide whose education and employment opportunities have been disrupted due to economic vulnerability.”

Others across our region are just starting to delve into these issues. Kashmah Ali said: “I am enthusiastically trying to incorporate ideas from others as discrimination has absolutely no place in my life. I thrive to build strong connections with diverse groups of people in my personal and professional life; it builds my understanding of others and provides me with a wider circle of skills.”

Grace says how she wants to do more to support ED&I but does try to be more inclusive. “I generally engage and talk to my colleagues about who they are, their cultures, religions and backgrounds,” she said. “I believe this will help us to relate and work better together, as well as creating an environment where we feel accepted and appreciated for who we are despite our differences.”

Diversity benefits business

AECOM recognizes that a diverse and talented workforce is a key competitive advantage. As a truly global company, our business success reflects the quality and skill of our people. We believe that the wide array of perspectives that results from a diversity and inclusion focus promotes innovation and business success.

“Having worked with the AECOM Environment and Sustainability teams, I can confidently say that our diversity in terms of backgrounds, experiences, working styles and world views are what enables us to develop innovative and implementable solutions for complex challenges, “ said Namitha. “We can develop solutions that are relevant locally and ones that are also appealing to global stakeholders.”

Noluthando says that having a diverse team has impacted her critical reasoning skills. She said: “Construction industry employees are able to assess problems and fix them and a diverse team definitely enhances these skills. When faced with an obstacle, a group comprising different perspectives will reach a better solution faster.”

While there are many benefits to business, diversity also impacts you personally. As one of the first Saudi females currently working on the NEOM Industrial City project, Kashmah Ali mentioned that she has also faced some unconscious bias. However, those experiences did not faze her. “By working with different perspectives, I’ve learned to be more flexible in exchanging ideas, cope with sudden change and be exposed to these unique perceptions,” she said.

Originally published Feb 3, 2022

Author: AECOM Editors