SANNIQUELLIE, Nimba – The superintendent for geology and quality control at the iron ore mining company ArcelorMittal has underscored the importance of technical and vocational education in post-war Liberia.
Superintendent Charles Umahai was speaking at the first graduation ceremony of the Nimba County Community College, Technical and Vocation Education program, where he stressed the positive relationship between technical and vocational education on one hand, and higher labor market participation on the hand, leading invariably to lower unemployment rate.
Some 36 students – 26 males and 10 females – received certificates in various technical disciplines, each successfully completing a total of 1,500 credit hours of studies and training.
Technical and vocational education provides skills in a broad category of advanced professional areas which may be directly linked to national productivity and competitiveness, Umahai said.
“Developing countries need to improve productivity throughout the economy if they are to compete successfully in an era of rapid economic and technological change,” he said. “This requires not only capital investment, but also a workforce that has the flexibility to acquire new skills for new jobs as the structures of economies and occupations change.”
In Liberia, many young men and women become early parents even before they complete minimum levels of formal education. In order to meet the challenges of a dynamic and ever-evolving labor market, these young people will need technical training to plug the skills gap needed to be productive family members, instead of resorting to commercial motorcycling, an occupation Umahai believes is dangerous and unsustainable.
The TVET program was incorporated into the college curriculum in 2012, according to the director of the program, Joseph Gehyigon, who also spoke at the graduation, emphasizing the program’s effectiveness in providing career and employment opportunities for young and disadvantaged youths in the country.
The TVET program, according to Gehyigon, has been structured in a way that places emphasis on developing competencies through industrial placement, rather than formal academic degrees and qualifications. The rising number of early parents and high school dropouts in the county means that the challenges are huge. Gehyigon then issued a call to the Nimba county administration to allocate at least US$10,000 in the county’s Social Development.
Gehyigon also appealed to the management of ArcelorMittal and other companies operating in the county to buttress the efforts of the central government and county authorities by supporting the expansion of training opportunities and additional learning materials. According to Gehyigon, urgent support is needed in creating additional space for accommodation and new teaching staff.
Over the years, institutions like ArcelorMittal, Jungle Water Group of Investment, Morris Heavy Duty Garage, United Brothers Garage, and CSE Construction Company have supported the college by providing its students opportunities for job training.
Featured photo by Jerry Myers