Clough has long been recognised as a pioneering company in the engineering and construction industry, and it has forged a similar respect in the community for its contributions to support its people and make a positive impact. One such contribution is the Clough Scholars Program, established in 1972.

Harold Clough, our former leader, managing director and chairman, who was also an Alumni of the University of Western Australia, saw an opportunity to give back to the community and reward those who embodied the pioneering spirit. The Clough Scholars Program has since benefited hundreds of students across a wide range of disciplines including civil/structural, mechanical/piping, electrical, instrumentation and control, and process, as well as construction management and health, safety and environment.

Meet Aya Al-Absawi, Mechanical Engineering student and recent recipient of the 2023 Clough Scholarship!

“I chose to study at Curtin because both my parents studied there soon after I was born; I practically grew up on the campus. I’ve been passionate about engineering for as long as I can remember, extending from a passion for maths in my younger school years. My family and my religion are two of the most important things to me, and they influence almost every decision I make. I hope to be a positive role model one day to young Muslim girls who have a passion they’re too scared to follow.

“I’ve always been very interested in creating, designing and helping people. I’ve also always demonstrated a competency in maths, which is what initially made me consider engineering. Being an engineer gives me the capacity to apply my skills in maths to problem-solve and design solutions, while also being able to make a difference, however small it may be. I did both woodwork and metalwork in high school, then progressed to a cert 2 in engineering, under the guidance of the most amazing teacher I could possibly have. Despite being the only girl in my class, and only hijabi in my school, he gave me the support and motivation to excel in my studies and continue with a degree in engineering.”

Aya took part in Curtin University’s Girls Engineering Tomorrow (GET) Program, one of Clough’s proud partnership programs aimed at supporting the next generation to pursue STEM career paths.

“Whilst the GET program didn’t directly influence my decision to study engineering, it gave me the security that I had chosen the right career path. Through the program, I had the opportunity to experience small parts of the degree through 90-minute workshop classes from various disciplines. As students, we were given the opportunity to participate in labs and experiments, as well as learn the theoretical elements. The program was an incredible experience and gave me a small insight into the ever-expanding world of engineering.

“I began by deciding what I absolutely would not want to do. Electrical and civil were automatically out. I considered chemical engineering as I had interest in chemical processes, but inevitably I felt that Mechanical was the perfect fit. I’ve always taken interest in dynamics, and how pieces can fit together to create a moving mechanical piece.

“I’m a woman in engineering, which in itself is motivation to succeed. However, I’m also a Muslim woman, and growing up I never got to see any representation, whether in tv shows and movies, or educational media. I would love to become a face for all those young Muslim girls who doubt themselves or believe that they are any less than anyone else just because of our beliefs and dressing style. I would love for them to know that you can be strong, beautiful and successful, in a male dominated field, without sacrificing your integrity or religion.”

As part of the Clough Scholars Program, Aya has taken on an intern role at Clough.

“I love to learn and learning through experience is one of the best ways. The Clough Scholars Program is giving me the opportunity to experience the applications of what I learn in university, in a way that I couldn’t understand through my courses.

“Initially when I first came to Clough, I spent a lot of time being introduced to the lovely world of excel, learning how to use it efficiently as those basic skills are so important in engineering. As I’ve progressed and spent more time here, especially working full time during my holidays, I’ve been promoted to working on calculations and document analysis, which can be tedious, but a lot more enjoyable than I expected!

“I just love how much knowledge I’m able to gain at Clough. Whichever discipline you’re in, you have an entire team of people willing and ready to teach, guide and test you. I get given the space to complete the work set to me at my own pace, while constantly researching and understanding new concepts, while also knowing that I can discuss with my colleagues any issues I have devoid of judgment.”

The future is bright for Aya, she has exemplified the Clough spirit and we cannot wait to see what she goes onto achieve.

“To me, a successful career is one where I’m never bored. Of course, there will be those days, but overall, I want to be able to constantly exceed my own expectations and extend my knowledge and skills. I would also love to work in the medical field and use my skills to aid in the development of medical research.

“The development of technology is terrifying, but the applications of some of it are intriguing. Something can be designed with no specific purpose in mind, but through different engineering processes, it can be transformed into a life-changing technology that can save an entire population.”