BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – ArcelorMittal has trained six Liberians to be locomotive drivers, with the graduation ceremony taking place this past Tuesday in Buchanan.
According to the rail superintendent of ArcelorMittal, Edwin Tokpa, the training included both theory and practical and usually lasts for six months but due to a slowdown in the transportation of ore, it took them longer to complete the training.
The six ArcelorMittal employees are part of the third batch of graduates so far. The first batch, which contained five individuals, were trained in South Africa and returned to Liberia. The second batch was the first to be trained in Liberia and contained five Liberians. There are now 16 Liberians who have been trained in locomotive driving under ArcelorMittal.
The training is intended to build capacity and prepare a skilled local workforce that can compete with immigrant labor for jobs in locomotive driving.
“There are still expat drivers that need to be replaced, so we gave them all the basics of mainline operations and safety. They are now competent GE locomotive drivers,” Tokpa said, referring to the company that manufactures the locomotive engines.
Grand Bassa’s assistant superintendent for development, Flee Glay, who attended the graduation, thanked ArcelorMittal for transferring knowledge to Liberians. He described the training as a lifetime investment and a knowledge sharing roadmap to development and capacity building.
He called on the graduates to make Liberia proud by performing excellently while on duty.
“I am proud of you guys. Now that you have received this training, please be serious in order to train other Liberians together so we can develop our country,” Glay said.
Speaking on behalf of the graduates, Michael Torblon thanked ArcelorMittal for giving them the opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of Liberia.
He said the training of Liberians will reduce the operational cost for ArcelorMittal, as they tend to spend more on immigrants.
“When more Liberians are trained to take over from the expats, you will understand that their cost of operations will be reduced. Then workers can talk about their benefits; they will do more when it comes to corporate social responsibility,” Torblon told The Bush chicken.
For her part, the head of corporate communications for ArcelorMittal, Amanda Hill, who spoke at a press conference held at the office of the Bassa Women Development Association on Wednesday, said the management of ArcelorMittal believes strongly that it is the youth of Liberia who will drive change and enable prosperity for the country, therefore the company has continually invested in education as part of its social responsibility approach.
“We have invested heavily in this important demographic, financing the rehabilitation of schools in our concession areas and providing important educational and training opportunities as well as numerous scholarships for advanced studies in science and engineering,” Hill told journalists.
According to Hill, ArcelorMittal reopened the Vocational Training Center in Yekepa, Nimba in March of this year and received 1,500 applications from Liberians across the 15 counties to attend, but only 47 of the brightest students were selected for the first year’s internationally certificated program.
The training center has yearly enrollment and focuses on developing a firm foundation of knowledge in the areas of heavy diesel mechanics, industrial electricity, and fitting.
The program is 30 percent theoretical and 70 percent practical. However, the program lags in gender parity as only two of the 47 students attending are women.
Hill said US$7 million was used to renovate the training center and it is free of charge to successful applicants.
She noted that the initiative is core to ArcelorMittal’s business strategy in Liberia to develop a capable workforce for the future that has both the skills and the knowledge to succeed.
Featured photo by Sampson David