The VTC buzzed with excitement as apprentices and staff prepared to welcome the vice president of Liberia, distinguished government officials and ArcelorMittal Liberia’s senior management for the official launch of the centre. ArcelorMittal Liberia recognised an opportunity to empower youth, align education, workforce and economic development for a prosperous Liberia and started the journey to increase technical education by investing $7 million to re-open the technical education centre in Yekepa, Nimba county. The hard work and strategic planning of so many was realised at the launch.
Dawie Loots, manager and trainer at the VTC shared an overview of the program that clearly demonstrated his passion for his work and apprentices. “What an incredible journey!” he exclaimed. The heart of his speech spoke to the courage shown by ArcelorMittal Liberia to answer the call of the Liberian people as well as Liberians’ perseverance, hope and ability to unite for a greater good. Loots, his staff and the first class of VTC apprentices worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the buildings; “no contractors, no consultants. Just the VTC trainers & apprentices” he shared.
There are currently 47 apprentices at the vocational training centre studying various technical disciplines from diesel mechanic apprenticeships to electrician and mechanical fitting training. In 2021, powered by the official launch of the centre, the VTC hopes to train 100 apprentices. Entry into the vocational training centre is competitive as the program is free to successful candidates and houses and feeds them during the three-year duration of the apprenticeship.
Two apprentices spoke at the event Sam K. Dehmie (electrical apprentice) and Ernest Barlea (mechanical fitting apprentice). Both impressed vice president, Jewel Howard-Taylor as they described their experiences and their appreciation for the discipline, technical knowledge and awareness of safety in every aspect of their training. The young men are natives of Nimba County; Dehmie is a graduate of the ArcelorMittal Liberia school system. His friend Barlea urged his fellow apprentices to “take full advantage and do [their] best”.
The keynote address was delivered by Her Excellency, Jewel Howard Taylor, vice president of the Republic of Liberia. She brought greetings on behalf of President George Weah and thanked ArcelorMittal Liberia for its dedication to the nation. She commended the company for creating opportunities for youth stressing that “we must be involved in making meaningful contributions to their posterity through the acquisition of relevant skills which will enable them access to jobs and business opportunities. This is especially necessary, given the large numbers of unemployed and underemployed youths across our nation.” She asked local government to “please let us take politics out of development” encouraging cooperation between the government and the company; a message that was reiterated throughout the program by several government officials. “I believe that when the story is told of the renaissance of our beautiful nation, your story will be one of its successes. Our government looks forward to working with you through challenges which may arise and celebrating with you in the good times,” she said before touring the VTC.
“The Legislature is committed to work along with ArcelorMittal,” said Nimba County District 3 representative, Hon. Joseph N. Somwarbi. He shared that he was hopeful for the company’s presence in the county believing that more contractors would evolve into full time employees. He also emphasised that “recruitment [should be] transparent & training be adequate.”
According to Gustavo Gomes, vice president of mining operations for ArcelorMittal, Liberia is the fifth largest mine operation of ArcelorMittal mines worldwide. The business unit could become second largest in ArcelorMittal if an ongoing feasibility study leads to major investment in the next few years. “These young Liberians represent the future workforce of the company and overall technical experts in the nation,” he said.
As ArcelorMittal Liberia strives to expand its operations, jobs and knowledge are expected to increase, led by brilliant young Liberians, a government excited to engage investors and ArcelorMittal Liberia; a company that believes in Liberia’s immense potential.
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