Voices: Developing my skills as an engineer in Palestine

"It means a lot to me that I have the opportunity to carry out important work so close to home. It is great to see things improve and to see that the effort that our team is putting in has made a real, positive change, for people living here.” - Antone "Tony” Maria, Chief Mechanical Services Engineer, Jerusalem.

I joined UNOPS in 2009 and, since then, it has been a fantastic six years. When I started, I worked exclusively in infrastructure, initially as a Mechanical Engineer for a couple of years. After that I became a Chief Mechanical Services Engineer.

I am very happy with my job. We have an excellent environment, everyone gets along and we all enjoy what we are doing. Without any doubt, we have made a positive change in the local market, especially with regards to quality, and health and safety standards in construction and infrastructure projects.

We face challenges due to the security situation, but we are still able to attract new business opportunities due to UNOPS great reputation in the area. However, it is not just about building things, it is about improving the quality of life of people and communities.

Enhancing security is one way that we can achieve this. We are currently partnered with the Palestinian authorities to reach their Justice and Rule of Law National Strategy. This is in alignment with their strategic goals to support, build, empower and develop justice institutions.

One of the biggest current projects related to this is the creation of the new Jenin Correctional Facility (JFC). This $11.5 million project, funded by the European Commission, will allow for adequate living conditions of up to 250 inmates in accordance with international human rights standards. The project will also improve conditions for women and juveniles detained by the Palestinian Authority within the West Bank.

Another project I am working on is the construction and equipping of a high-quality court facility in Tulkarem (TCHF), in the West Bank. This facility will house several departments all under one roof ensuring better cooperation between them. One of the main goals of this project is to increase the efficiency of the justice system in Palestine.

In our projects we always attempt to harness environmentally friendly and green solutions. This includes a solar energy system for the JFC and heat recovery systems for the TCHF. 

The opportunities for professional and personal development are another reason why I enjoy working at UNOPS. At the beginning of 2015, I earned my associate level membership from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). This made me the first engineer at UNOPS to receive a professional engineering certification through the Professional Development Programme, which is piloted at our office in Jerusalem. A similar Professional Development Programme for Engineers will be initiated in Kenya later this year.

It offers the opportunity to further develop essential skills, competencies and gain professional recognition.

Having this certification is great for two reasons; the first is confidence. I feel more confident about the job I am doing as a member of a recognized institution.

The second is the added value for UNOPS. As a member of CIBSE, I have access to their vast library of knowledge, including published technical documents. This makes it easier for me to obtain extra material on a particular subject and, as a result, gives UNOPS a competitive advantage in the market.

I would recommend this certification to colleagues looking to further develop their careers. UNOPS has given me a lot of support since I began the certification process in late 2013. They even managed to facilitate interviews with CIBSE via a video conference, so that I could continue to work and apply for the certification at the same time. 

UNOPS made the whole process easier and smoother. I think it would have been a lot more challenging for someone working in the local private sector.

​The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) is an internationally renowned institution providing professional development, training and accreditation for engineers. Membership and certification provide international professional recognition of competencies and qualification facilitating career opportunities and prospects.         

If you have any comments or are interested in knowing more, please contact our Training and Professional Development Specialist, Richard Lorenz FICE at