Profile: Wisdom Akpokighe, P.Eng.

Aug 17, 2023 12:00 PM

Profile: Wisdom Akpokighe, P.Eng.

Submitted by Leigh Day, FEC (Hon.) for Volume 36, NO. 2/3 of The Engineer

Wisdom Akpokighe exudes confidence and personality. Currently a project manager with the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), Wisdom began his life in Halifax six years ago. Leaving his home in Nigeria, he turned down opportunities in England and the United States to become a Canadian citizen. With fourteen years of experience as a civil engineer, and impressive academic accomplishments, his career goal was to find challenging work on multi-million-dollar projects, at the project manager level.

Creating a safe and happy life for his wife, Bolanle, and their three children, all under the age of five at the time, was an equally high priority. Today, Wisdom’s family is well established, and he has his dream job with HRM, project manager for the Bedford Highway upgrade.

Accomplishing these diverse goals was a journey of hard work, highs, lows, and frustrations. With the helpful professionals at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), Engineers Nova Scotia and the Halifax Partnership Connector Program, it has also been very rewarding. Wisdom embraced everything each organization had to offer.


Wisdom received his Bachelor’s in Structural Engineering from the University of Benin, Nigeria, in 2006.  While working, he received a Master of Civil Engineering from the University College London (UCL) ‘2012, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Nicosia, in Cyprus ‘2017. Wisdom received scholarship awards throughout his education and is currently working toward his Doctorate in Business Administration. Once Halifax was decided upon, Wisdom found ISANS on the internet and took several of their on-line courses.

Prior to the establishment of the current ISANS’ Internationally Educated Engineers (IEE) Bridging Program, piloted in 2005-06, many talented and well-educated immigrants, keen on pursuing their engineering careers tended to lose their confidence once in their ‘survival jobs’. Most never realized the dream they had fought so hard to attain.

The IEE Program supports and builds confidence by providing job search techniques, a pathway to licensure, work placement assessment of competencies (WPAC), and more. The two pillars are the employers within the engineering community and the dedication of the applicant. ISANS worked with Wisdom to create a flexible schedule which included several more courses, his survival job, a twelve-week work placement, a job search and family orientation.

Even with his impressive work and academic background, passion, drive and intelligence, Wisdom agrees with Samar Khalil, Coordinator of the ISANS IEE Bridging Program, “The number one barrier for IEE’s to overcome is confidence.” 

This is not confidence in one’s engineering knowledge and expertise. Wisdom says, “Engineering is engineering anywhere in the world, Germany, England, Canada, Nigeria. There are just different codes, but the concept of design is exactly the same. You don't want the structure to fail, you don't want to cause harm to people. So, I learned the Canadian codes.”  

Wisdom says, “confidence is shaken when people do not understand what you say due to your accent, or your way of expressing an idea. Some treat you differently because you do not look like them. Being knowledgeable about cultural differences, acquiring communication and other soft skills, are as important as technical knowledge in the Canadian workplace.” 

While working for an Italian company in Nigeria, the workforce was ninety percent Nigerians and roughly five percent immigrant Italians. “They asked us everything. The simplest things. We thought this was strange,” said Wisdom. “After moving to Canada, I was the one asking all the questions.” 

Wisdom realized that his accent and direct Nigerian way of communicating were not serving him, or his engineering teams. While proud of his accent, he learned to speak and enunciate more slowly and clearly. The ISANS' Orientation and Communication Skills for Engineers (OCSE) Program was a huge help. The program concentrates on learning workplace culture, practicing communication skills, and developing intercultural competence, critical skills when navigating the workplace and the community. 

ISANS’ Canada Connections program paired Wisdom’s family with a local family. Over several months the two families went to various events and local destinations, coffee shops, for groceries, museums and neighborhood walks. Other courses, such as how to make small talk, what to talk about, and what not to talk about, were worked into Wisdom’s schedule. 

His twelve-week job placement, with the then called, Department of Transportation and Infrastructural Renewal, now Department of Public Works, prepared Wisdom to apply for a position at SNC Lavalin. During this time, he also kept his survival job, as the program provided only $2,000 for the entire work period. He was also preparing to obtain his Professional Engineering license.  

While attending a Halifax Partnership (HP) seminar, conducted by Gerald Walsh, of Gerald Walsh Associates Inc, Wisdom raised both hands when the group was asked if anyone had a dream job in mind. Nathan Laird, coordinator of the HP Connector Program, asked for his resume, which was on Wisdom’s phone. Nathan made a call on his behalf, and while sitting in the seminar an interview with SNC Lavalin was set up.   

Wisdom went to ISANS immediately to ask for a mock interview. The guidance provided was so pertinent, following the actual interview a request for his reference was received while he was on the bus heading home.  The job offer followed within a few days. 

His subsequent experience working with CBCL Limited led to Wisdom’s current position with HRM. Wisdom now demonstrates his appreciation for the benefits of networking, and his gratitude to everyone who helped along the way, by volunteering with the HP Connector Program. In 2023 Wisdom received the Connector of the Year award. 


While Wisdom’s story is laced with good luck, it is his drive, tenacity and work ethic that made each step possible. He adds that, “keeping my goals topmost in my mind, not hesitating to look for people and organizations that could help me, and my deep faith in God,” were key. 

Engineers Nova Scotia and ISANS are continually upgrading their programs and processes to make it easier for Internationally Educated Immigrants to work, play and thrive in Nova Scotia.