The Engineer: meet Bernard Amponsah-Poku

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As part of our series on different careers in Ghana, we interviewed Bernard Amponsah- Poku, a successful mining engineer in Ghana. After working as a mining engineer in the fields of processing, mine design and equipment management at Rockshell International, Bernard went on to become the Mining Engineer Supervisor at African Mining Services- AMS. He is currently the Senior Mining Engineer at the African Mining Services.

“For me, engineering was just a natural continuation of my childhood curiosity. After a degree in mining engineering, I started my career in a quarry and later joined African Mining Services (AMS). I was recently promoted as a Senior Mining Engineer at AMS where I have mentored mining engineers in my company. As a Senior Mining Engineer, I also work on the daily production report which includes production quantities, drill and blast meters and volumes blasted, grade control, crusher feed from the run-of-mine (ROM) pad, Material rehandling and dewatering.

My engineering career has challenged me with new projects and new methods so many times I've lost count. I am currently working on a project to acquire and deploy a drone at Edikan mine for Perseus Mining Gold Limited (PMGL). Drone technology allows professionals to work more efficiently. With an easy-to-deploy mapping drone you can capture accurate aerial imagery and transform it into 2D orthomosaics (maps) and 3D models of small- and medium-sized sites – all on demand and without needing any piloting skills. Drone-based data collection has also boosted productivity due to a drone’s ability to collect data. With fewer man hours required to produce large, accurate data sets, and no need for externally-sourced imagery, the result is vastly reduced costs.  In the next couple of years, I want to be the General Manager (GM) of a mining company.

As mining engineers, our work is very crucial to the safety of individuals and the environment. Mining engineers design mining operations and supervise the construction of mining sites. Knowledge of mining laws and environmentally responsible methods of extraction are necessary since our activities, if not carefully planned, will negatively impact the environment.

To get employed in mining, industry experience is very essential because it is a practical job. For students who want to obtain experience, practical field attachments during vacations are very necessary to enlighten them on the procedures in the industry.
On the other hand, the persistently falling gold prices have made the mining business and its cost a challenging task for the mining companies and has negatively impacted the profit of most companies including PMGL. Mining companies now run a tight recruitment schedule and would mostly want to hire already experienced people which makes it a bit difficult at the moment for new students to get in.

From my experience, I would advice students to: Develop “soft skills.” Technical skills and experience are great, but when hiring for entry-level positions, most employers view communication and teamwork skills, as well as having a positive attitude, as being important. Also, use social networks, job boards, career fairs, your personal and professional network in your job search. Apply to jobs you’re really excited about. Prepare yourself before interviews. At the very least, do some research on the company at its website. It’s wise to take things a step further, though, and review the hiring manager’s profile on LinkedIn.

Most employers look for entrepreneurship experience when hiring recent graduates. What’s key is that you get your ideas out there and make things happen. One approach is to start a blog around a topic you enjoy, and make sure it’s updated at least weekly. Companies have to focus on innovation to survive and thrive these days, so entrepreneurially minded graduates are important to us.  The workplace is constantly changing, as are the needs of corporations and it is important to spread yourself out and get as many internships and experiences under your belt as humanly possible.  Social Network: Make sure that your social media presence online is professional. Use your settings to ensure that only your friends have access to personal contents, but still be careful about what you post. No employer wants to take a chance on a new hire that they believe may behave inappropriately and create some type of risk to the organisation.”