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Engaging Young Engineers In South Africa

GIGSA President Johann Le Roux
GIGSA President Johann Le Roux

The IGS Chapter in South Africa, known as the Geosynthetic Interest Group of South Africa, or GIGSA, features in our inaugural edition of Chapter Chat, the first of a regular round-up of chapter news.

Here, we explore its youth council – one of the youngest in the IGS, boasting an average age of 35.

GIGSA President Johann Le Roux shared the secret to the group’s success and initiatives planned for 2020.


GIGSA doesn’t have a formal IGS Youth Committee. How does your youth outreach operate?

Instead of a Youth Committee we have a universities portfolio that focuses on youth and education. It is managed by a young committee, which allows it to better engage with young professionals in the industry. We currently have 40 students among our 250 members.


What sort of activities have you held over the years?

GIGSA hosts and co-hosts at least four events per year which include:

  • Webinars
  • An Education Week which includes the IGS two-day Educate the Educator (EtE) event, a one-day workshop and a two-day conference for our younger members called the Geosynthetic Conference for Young Professionals (GCYP).
  • We co-host events with a couple of other voluntary bodies such as the South African Institute of Civil Engineers (SAICE) Geotechnical Division and the Institute of Waste Management South Africa (IWMSA).
  • We also assist with a one-week training course for postgraduate civil engineering students which is held in association with the University of Cape Town.

Some highlights from previous events have been:

  • The first IGS African regional conference of geosynthetics – GeoAfrica 2009
  • Various workshops held by internationally renowned academics such as Professor Kerry Rowe, Professor Timothy Stark and Dr George Koerner, to name only a few.


What do you have planned for 2020?

As well as webinars, which will be held throughout 2020, there will be an evening lecture in March based on workshop feedback from the IGS Technical Committee on Barrier and Hydraulics Applications.

We also have Education Week in July which will include an Educate the Educator event, a workshop, and the 2nd Geosynthetic Conference for Young Professionals 2020. Plus, we will also have a one-week postgraduate course at the University of Cape Town.


What do you think makes your youth operation so successful?

It’s a combination of the successes and trends set by the previous councils, combined with the new thinking and modern approach of the current youthful council. GIGSA has one of the youngest councils in the world with an average age of around 35.

We have also prioritised our younger members by creating opportunities to present their work as well as to get geosynthetics introduced in university coursework.

Our success is truly a reflection of our board’s willingness to sacrifice personal time for the geosynthetics industry. But ultimately, without the support of our members and benefactors, this will be in vain.

We’re also grateful for the support that we get from the IGS global and regional council, as a chapter.


There must be some challenges?

The biggest challenge is time, in terms of the time we make available for GIGSA is outside of our normal work commitments.


Why do you think it is important for the IGS to have a Youth section?

Young people are the future of the industry. By investing in the youth we create a sustainable future.

For more information about GIGSA, please click here.

To read our launch issue of Chapter Chat, click here.