I had the opportunity to return home and participate in a professional internship in the field of Construction Management. I was working at Sterling Project Management, a construction management and real estate firm based in Nairobi.
Construction Management is still an upcoming sector in Kenya, and this is since the country is experiencing a boom in construction and real estate and infrastructure development. An increase in the middle class population has led to an increase in demand for housing and retail and office spaces to accommodate the growing population and corporate sector. Infrastructure projects have grown into large scale projects, which require a large team of consultants to push projects to successful completion. Having a central point of management is a key to successful projects, and therefore Kenya has witnessed a birth of construction project management firms overseeing large projects.
My time at Sterling Project Management was beneficial to my professional growth and really reshaped my future career goals. Working as a safety inspector for an ongoing high-rise apartment was a changing experience for me. Safety is one of the most important aspects of any infrastructure or industrial development. However, there isn’t a set of guidelines or specifications that stipulates safety and health. The Directorate of Occupation Health and Safety does not follow up on safety and health matters especially on construction sites. This has led to an increase in site accidents and injuries, amounting to workers being out of work, hospitalization, and death of workers. I developed an interest in Construction Health and Safety and am considering becoming a freelance safety consultant back home upon completion of my studies.
I was instrumental in the preparation of a comprehensive safety and health manual that was to be used by each contractor. The document was also to be included as part of the contract and this tied safety matters into the contractual responsibilities of the contract. Any breach of the safety and health document would amount to a breach of contract. I also offered a lot of clerical office duties, primarily I attended all project meetings that took place during my time here. I would then document the minutes and keep them for record. However, my greatest contribution was in safety issues. I restored most of the sites to safe working conditions by instituting tough measures against workers who were in constant violation. I also called for urgent safety meetings with all other project consultants, whenever I felt like the main contractor was in gross violation of safety and was putting the health and lives of his workers at risk.
As I mentioned earlier, construction safety has been of interest to me since I started taking this internship. I would love to have my impact in safety and health of workers. My preliminaries plans are to work as a freelance safety consultant, whereby I would be providing advice and training in regard to construction sites safety and health. As much as a project manager is trying to maximize on the profits, this should not be done at the expense of the workers.
The internship has bridged my academic experience in the US and my future career involvements in Kenya. I got to learn a lot about the styles, methods and dynamics of construction and project management in Kenya. I also became aware of what it takes to begin my own firm or corporation, since I was working at a sole proprietorship company, with the director being also the founder and owner of the company. He educated me a lot of what it takes to succeed as a young entrepreneur and investor.
As for my Community Engagement, I visited my former high school during the school’s career day, where I made a presentation on how to succeed in the college application process and how to seek funding and scholarship opportunities. I would like each student to have an opportunity and a shot at all the available opportunities outside. The biggest challenge in Africa is not lack of opportunities but lack of information about the opportunities. I gave a comprehensive presentation and left behind plenty of information and links for the students interested in applying to these opportunities.
Yusuf Njoroge is a senior in Construction Management within the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources at Michigan State University.