Technology, Mentoring and Giving to your Community

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Gently shaking the world

Be the change you want to see in the world. Those are the words of the great Mahatma Gandhi, and words by which Vancouver resident Prakash Joshi tries to live. For the past three decades, the 57-year-old engineering technologist has worked tirelessly to promote peace, protect the environment and help others – especially skilled engineers and technicians new to Canada get accredited and established in their new homeland. For many of these professionals, it’s a long, hard road, one that Prakash understands.

Born and raised in Uganda, Pakash and his family, along with 60,000 other Ugandans of South Asian extraction, were expelled from the country by dictator Idi Amin in 1972.

“I was thrown out of my country and found myself a refugee,” he says. “But I ended up in the best country in the world.”

Today, he’s a Senior Materials Engineering Technologist/Quality Control Manager with global engineering company, AMEC Earth & Environmental. He’s been with the company for 30 years, mostly involved in consulting, field evaluation and laboratory testing of a wide range of construction materials from concrete to soil, from building materials to sealants. He has also conducted numerous physical tests on structural elements and components such as skylights, wood framed systems, metal connections, pipes, and more. Much of this work has required the development of innovative testing equipment and procedures.

Just 18 months after joining the company as a technologist, Prakash was asked to assume the position of laboratory manager in the materials division.

“I remember laughing and saying I had no managerial training,” he says. “But my boss explained they were looking for someone who could teach and mentor, someone who got along with people.”

His teaching and mentoring expertise has involved him in numerous organizations over the past three decades – both within and outside the engineering sector. He is past president of the Society of Punjabi Engineers and Technicians (SPEATBC) – “They asked me to help them organize the association even though I’m not Punjabi,” says Prakash –and has been involved with the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) for many years, currently sitting as a council member. He’s also taught undergraduate students at BCIT and post doctorate students at UBC.

Today, Prakash Joshi is a respected member of the engineering community in B.C. And he’s using his connections and influence to help foreign-born, foreign-trained engineering professionals establish themselves in Canada.

“Canada has a critical shortage of engineering professionals,” he says. “Some sectors, like mining, are in desperate need of these skills. Yet there are many educated, experienced engineers coming to this country and they can’t get jobs. They already have the education and the experience and now they have to start from scratch – even having to take their exams over again. At the same time, they have families to support and other challenges. Then when they finally have their accreditation, the first thing employers ask them is if they have Canadian experience. Which is ridiculous because engineering is engineering, whether you do it in India, South America, or Canada. They end up becoming completely demoralized.”

Prakash adds that many of these highly skilled professionals get so frustrated with the lengthy accreditation process and bureaucratic red tape that they leave Canada for other, more accommodating, countries – countries like Australia and the U.S.

But it’s not only immigrants that are suffering, he explains. Canada is suffering.

“It’s got so bad that skilled professionals in many countries are being warned to stay away from Canada. Why would a highly educated, extremely experienced engineer put him or herself through this? The current situation places us at a terrible disadvantage globally.”

Prakash is currently mentoring and counselling engineering professionals from Poland, Kenya, South America, Iran – and Canada. He supports people at his workplace, at schools, at the ASTTBC and at his home.

“When many of these people reach me, they’re often desperate,” he says. “I help them with their resumes, give them referrals and assist with work placements, but what I really have to do is motivate them to not give up.”

But this is just part of Prakash Joshi’s story. He’s also a passionate environmentalist, humanitarian and pacifist. He was chair of Friends of the Environment from 1995 to 2000 and has participated with Initiatives of Change, whose main focus is to heal Canadian cities. He’s also Vice President of the Ugandan Canadian National Association (UCNA).

Then there’s his artistic side. He comes from a family of musicians and today concentrates on Indian semi-classical music and has released a CD playing his own compositions. He’s also a published poet and part-time journalist for a local Indo-Canadian newsletter. He’s even created his own website – www.pvjoshi.ca – as a way to integrate his many pursuits.

It’s surprising Parkash Joshi has time for family life, but he’s a devoted husband and father. He and his wife, Darshana, have three children, Ronak, 27, Tejaswini, 26 and Milan, 25.

What he doesn’t have time for is vacations – or thoughts of retirement.

“I love working at AMEC, I love what I do and want to continue for as long as I can,” he says. “I am very fortunate to have the full support of my wife as we share the same values.”

And what are those values?

“That it’s your duty as a human being to help others,” he says.

Or in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

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