“I was the type of girl who would be repairing the stove if it had a fault, repairing bulbs in the house,” says Mary Kapeso, former Heavy Vehicle Repair student at Zambia’s Northern Technical College, one of Volvo Group’s vocational education program school locations.
Mary Kapeso is one of over 2,000 graduates of Volvo Group’s vocational education school programs in Zambia, Ethiopia and Morocco. She is part of a diverse group of young people emerging to take their places behind the wheel and under the bonnet of heavy-duty vehicles.
This has really changed my life,” says Mary Kapeso, “I'm not limited to just being an employee. Through the entrepreneurship skills I’ve gained, I’ve learned I can make a difference in my community.”
The impact Volvo Group’s vocational education program have on youth unemployment in local communities is measurable, with 85% of students employed within nine months of graduating.
Not all graduates work for Volvo Group operations, but no matter where employment occurs, it is beneficial for the community and industry at large, which drives expansion and development.
Almost a decade ago, Volvo Group identified a number of locations where expansion and existing operations were made difficult by shortage of skilled mechanics and drivers.
In these countries, educational institutions suffered from a lack of resources, and students were graduating without adequate industry experience, requiring extensive on-the-job training.
“We could see that if we engaged in projects where we supported the school system and thereby provided a market to build long-term capacity for these trades, we would not only strengthen our business, but also support these societies,” says Johan Reiman, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Volvo Group.
Alongside international development organizations SIDA, USAID and UNIDO, Volvo Group has designed and implemented vocational training programs tailored to the specific industry needs of three African countries. Launched eight years ago in Ethiopia, the vocational education program has since expanded into Morocco and Zambia, with plans to open up in Congo DRC.
During setup of the vocational education and training programs, an existing school is chosen to host. Volvo Group provides resources ranging from equipment, vehicles and parts, to knowledge, training and curriculum planning. Each program requires a commitment of three to four years on location to set up and train teaching staff and oversee the launch of the program.
The programs allow students to graduate at an employable level, ready to join the workforce and finetune their skills within the industry without having to retrain on basic knowledge.
It’s not just mechanical and driving skills that students learn through the program; students also learn life skills, with extra focus on safety and equality, as well as health and wellness. The curriculum of the vocational education goes beyond the workshop floor to address relevant community issues and provide knowledge and training in other areas.
The project’s gender equality target is 25% female enrollment, and current numbers are already close in a number of locations.
Meriem Maghni is one female graduate. She studied at AGEVEC academy in Settat, Morocco and plans to eventually become a trainer in the industry.
“I’m so happy to have studied at the academy,” she says. “Thanks to the practical training, workshop equipment, trainers who were always ready, internships, and support from friends, AGEVEC gave me all the tools to make my dreams come true."
Johan Reiman says visiting the schools, speaking with the teachers and interacting with the students is probably the best part of his job.
“It cements my belief that we’re doing something good and something right, both for our business but also for society.”