Professional Technologist Jaco Prinsloo has a unique philosophy which he practices daily. To him, it is not about using opportunities but actually creating them for others that count. His charismatic leadership style has also touched the lives of many aspiring civil engineers, and fostered a commitment to service excellence and life long learning.
Jaco has travelled an interesting path - since his early student years at the Central University of Technology, to building an impressive array of high level projects at various consulting engineering firms - he has continued to remain steadfast and committed. His entry to the civil engineering discipline was however purely by chance.
"I initially went to the University of the Free State in 1984 to register for a qualification in architecture because I was interested in buildings and structures. The lecturer took one look at me, pointed to a vase and said that if I wanted to be an architect, I would need to be able to draw that vase. That was when I first realized that I was less interested in the outer frame than in the engineering behind it."
Since then Jaco has developed an intense passion for civil engineering and acquired an extensive track record at companies like Kwezi V3 Engineers, Ninham Shand, BVI Consulting Engineers, Sektor Engineering and currently, UWP Consulting Engineers. His need to make a difference in various communities has also resulted in a number of social responsibility campaigns which Jaco is particularly proud of.
"One of my initiatives which I set up when I was at Sektor Consulting Engineers was the R20 000 cycle sponsorship, which ended up being R40 000 when two of the cyclists made the South African (Springbok) Triathlon team. To me, it's great to be able to give something back. Even at UWP Consulting Engineers where I am currently the Bloemfontein Office Manager we have various opportunities to help aspiring civil engineers obtain their qualification."
"Our mentorship programme provides opportunities for people who are interested in engineering to study the discipline and provides practical training to allow professional registration to take place. We also offer student bursaries as well as an in-house educational fund called the Mother Theresa Fund. This sponsorship allows employees within UWP Consulting Engineers to send their children to University if they are unable to afford the costs," explains Jaco.
UWP Consulting Engineers' commitment to the civil engineering sector is also incorporated into each project.
"At UWP we don't just go into a community to complete a project we also try and identify additional opportunities where we can make a difference. This could include assisting a school in the community where there are disabled children or organizing a fund-raising or special prize giving day."
One of the projects where Jaco has interacted extensively with the community, is the Gariep Dam "Hydropark 196 sites" project. The Gariep Dam is situated alongside the N1 and is the largest dam in South Africa with a radius of 360 square kilometres. It is more than 100km long and 24km wide and testifies to the exceptional engineering and success of Africa's largest water supply scheme. The project was requested by the Kopanong Municipality and required the development of 196 sites in Hydropark Gariep Dam, with the provision of full water and sewer reticulation.
"The challenge with this project was the extremely rocky terrain. We ended up putting water and sewer pipes in one trench to reduce the amount of excavation required. Currently, more than 10 to 15 people are living in one house. The project will therefore alleviate the backlog with the development of 196 additional sites. Phase one, comprising of the first 67 sites is currently in progress with phase two likely to commence in 2009," explains Jaco.
Jaco has been a Civil Designer user throughout his entire working career and trusts no other software other than Civil Designer to deliver on infrastructure design results. "I have travelled a far road with the software and feel confident that it will produce optimally in any design situation. In the Gariep Dam project, I made extensive use of the Sewer and Water design modules and find the applications to be powerful and seamless in its operation."
Besides his passion for design, Jaco is also passionate about the Gariep Dam outreach programme. "I have just returned from an award ceremony held at one of the schools in the Gariep Dam community. This community is amazing. The children are so eager to learn and would walk for kilometers to get to school without missing a day. Being able to sponsor their end of year function and the awards evening for the best technical male and female student, has been a true highlight of the project. It gives me immense hope to see how committed some of our students are."
And, did he make a mistake not pursuing Architecture when he had the chance? Jaco laughs out loud at this question. "Not a chance! I would rather be involved in multi-disciplinary infrastructure development initiatives that make a difference in poor and rural communities than learning how to draw a vase! l am a Civil Engineer Technologist and proud to be one. There are endless opportunities around us and I am glad to be able to create opportunities that help to empower others," he says.