Schneider Electric launches new programs for underprivileged people in Lubumbashi
In Haut-Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the lack of qualified electricians is undermining the province’s economic development. With this in mind, Schneider Electric and the Society of Jesus in the DRC will help 500 local young people find work between 2018 and 2020 by creating two certified training courses for electricians. 80% of these trainees will come from underprivileged families.
As Africa’s fourth most populated country, with a wealth of natural resources, DRC has experienced GDP growth of between 2% and 9% in recent years. Economic growth has been particularly strong in Haut-Katanga, the DRC’s industrial and mining center, and the province’s capital Lubumbashi, the country’s second-largest city and a major business center.
However, the DRC’s economy is being hampered by its lack of infrastructure and skills, which is undermining growth. In Haut-Katanga, the electricity sector is having to resort to foreign workers to meet its needs in electrical equipment, installations and maintenance, to the detriment of the province’s underprivileged populations.
Committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations, Schneider Electric is particularly invested in SDG 7 or ensuring access to sustainable energy for all as a prerequisite for child education, quality of life and economic development. In 2009, the company launched its Access to Energy program with the objective of supporting vocational electrical training, in partnership with local organizations. Since then, the program helped more than 148,000 people in more than 45 countries. Moreover, between 2009 and 2020, Schneider Electric will have helped train 20,000 young people in 22 African countries with around 90 partners. In 2018 alone, 5,200 young people will be trained.
In DRC, Didier Chika, Access to Energy Business Development Manager, contacted Father Max Senker, director of Mwapusukeni Technical College in Lubumbashi. Managed by the Society of Jesus, this college has offered vocational training courses for young people aged between 18 and 25 since 2017. These courses include, for example, steel construction and car mechanics, and most of the students are from poor families.
After studying market needs, the two partners have defined two training programs in the energy sector: Building Electricity and Solar Energy. “A partnership agreement signed at the end of 2017 between the Jesuits, Schneider Electric DRC and the Schneider Electric Foundation describes the courses, the duration of the training, the number of beneficiaries and the target audience. It also defines the commitments of each party,” explained Didier Chika. The aim is to enable 500 young people, including 80% from underprivileged families, to train as electricians, from September 2018 to 2020. “Given the region’s needs for qualified electricians, trainees are guaranteed job prospects.”
The Building Electricity program is designed to last a year (six months of classes and six months of experience in a company). This training will lead to a locally recognized vocational certificate. Meanwhile, the Solar Energy program lasts four months and will receive 80 students every year, including those that have completed the Building Electricity program.
The quality of the programs is partly due to the equipment provided by Schneider Electric, through the support of the Schneider Electric Foundation. This includes learning stations (booths in which students can make connections), solar panels, batteries, charge regulators, etc. Schneider Electric’s other main contribution is in training. The trainer’s training module is dispensed by a Schneider Electric Teacher, an employee having applied internally to carry out this mission on a volunteer basis and selected for his or her technical skills in the relevant equipment.
The program is designed to be replicated and adapted to the constraints of each region in a process of ongoing development and improvement. The solar module was developed by a professor from the Schneider Electric Paul-Louis Merlin School in Grenoble following a mission to Senegal with local technicians. Similarly, feedback from the field in Tanzania, which highlighted a need for industrial maintenance, led to the design and introduction of a specific module. All the training courses are presented in a catalogue organized by level of qualification (vocational training certificate, master’s certificate, etc.).