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National content without the necessary professional skills is a fallacy

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Added 16th October 2017 09:54 AM

Whereas it is clear that there will be many job opportunities in the sector, what we are not sure of, however, is how many Ugandans will directly benefit from them

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By Christian Schnurre

Having established that Uganda has only two driving schools registered to provide professional training for drivers of commercial heavy goods vehicles, we recently launched a Professional Driver Training project. 

Our rationale was that practical skills training is vital in a country where the current conversation focuses heavily on national content policy, particularly in regard to the oil and gas sector which is going into construction phase soon.

Whereas it is clear that there will be many job opportunities in the sector, what we are not sure of, however, is how many Ugandans will directly benefit from them. 

In general, the country does yet not have enough professionally skilled workers whose qualifications meet internationally recognised standards.

 In fact, in 2015, the consultancy firm Mott MacDonald produced a report called “Capacity Needs Analysis for Oil and Gas Sector Skills in Uganda”. The report notes that the main impediment to employing a larger share of Ugandans in the sector is a shortage of personnel with adequate practical experience and skills.

According to the study, over 1800 professional drivers of large commercial vehicles will be required only in this sector over the next 10 years.

The launched initiative is aimed at training at least 12 driver instructors and 800 drivers of large commercial vehicles.

Since the launch, we have received many questions from the public; naturally, people want to know what is special, different and beneficial about this training. After all, large commercial vehicles are driven across the country daily.

These are vital questions, especially when one considers that petroleum companies do not compromise on standards of safety and professionalism for the sake of local content. Without a doubt, training solutions are required. 

The vehicles are driven, yes, but how are they driven? Some drivers of these vehicles have never attended a driver training. Others have completed ‘training’ but the training is only theoretical; their time behind the wheel as hired drivers is what substitutes for practical training, leaving a lot of room for potential disaster. 

Such gaps between the training world and the requirements of the job market are a common issue across the economic landscape.

They are not only present in the transportation sector, they are reality in many other occupations such as welding, plumbing, electrical installation and scaffolding.

Many of our projects thus seek to bridge this practical experience gap and as such we facilitate skilling programmes which focus on practice alongside theory. 

Our conviction is that supporting efforts to professionally train more Ugandan truck and bus drivers will not only enhance employment and income opportunities for the drivers, but also ensure that Uganda’s roads are becoming much safer.

Traffic reports show that over 80% of accidents in this country are caused by human factors including lack of professional driving skills.

These accidents take thousands of lives every year and cause further untold damage to families, societies and businesses. Reducing these accidents by improving the training of professional drivers creates a win-win situation, whichever way we look at it. 

In our interaction with the Government of Uganda, it is clear there is commitment to increase the number of Ugandans with professional skills suited to work for the petroleum and other growing sectors of the economy.

The GIZ Skilling programme E4D/SOGA is, therefore, working with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and the Ministry of Works and Transport, to enhance the capacity of Ugandan drivers and craftsmen in other occupations. The other implementing partners are Transaid and Safe Way Right Way.

Our industry partners have pledged private sector investments for this project in the form of land, training trucks, buildings and resources. This form of public-private partnership will be key in combatting many development challenges in Uganda and elsewhere in the world. 

The project is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the British Department for International Development and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

This project is a model example of how development co-operation in partnership with the private sector will have to work in the future to achieve the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. 

The writer is the Country Director of GIZ in Uganda

 

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