On a warm and partly cloudy September morning, pockets of youths begin trickling into the Randal Street premises of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).What initially starts as a handful of individuals soon develops into a scene reminiscent of youths seeking admission into a decisive football match. Private security personnel assigned to the company struggle to control the anxious youths, whose number by now has swollen to nearly three-thousand.
A total of 2,868 interested youths streamed the premises of NOCAL in anticipation of an opportunity to acquire skills in various disciplines, including electricity, masonry, plumbing, drafting, auto mechanic, driving and carpentry, which would make it easier for them to obtain future employment.
"Nearly three thousand applicants responded to the announcement," Ms. Faith David of the Corporate Social Relations (CSR) Division said. She indicated that following interviews, a total of 737 applicants were selected for the 2012/2013 academic year. "But considering budgetary factors and the limited vacancies at the various institutions, the company could not accommodate all of the applicants during this academic term" Madam David explained.
So overwhelming was the response that CSR which spearheaded the recruitment process, had to relocate the exercise to the Antoinette Tubman Stadium to avoid a stampede. There, applicants were screened and interviewed to determine their eligibility for the program. The screeners, among other factors, took into account a candidate's suitability and proximity to the schools earmarked for the program.
The youths were responding to radio and newspaper announcements sent out by NOCAL, which offered short-term scholarships for vocational study in various disciplines. The program is one of several outreach initiatives being undertaken by the entity as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility Programme. The company has already spent more than US $176,000 this year on vocational training and development as well as local scholarships.
The Liberian Industrialization Opportunities Center, the School of Professional Driving, the Monrovia Vocational Training Center, the Salvation Army Vocational Training Center, and the William V.S. Tubman Accelerated Vocational Training Center were among institutions chosen by NOCAL for the program. Successful candidates will be awarded diplomas/certificates at the end of the program, which runs between 9 to18-months.
In an effort to encourage female participation, all female applicants were accepted, while Don Bosco Boys were accommodated. The group is comprised mainly of war-affected disadvantaged young people. For now, the lucky ones are all excited and grateful that NOCAL is providing opportunities for them to acquire skills that will provide unlimited opportunities for them following successful completion.
"All we have to do now is to play our part by studying hard because NOCAL is not just providing us fish, but teaching us how to fish," a grateful scholarship recipient, Richard Crowu, of the Salvation Army Vocational Training Center in Sinkor said during a recent visit to monitor the students' progress. Student Crowu is a high school graduate, studying plumbing. His sentiments undoubtedly echo those of other beneficiaries who are determined to maximize the opportunity being provided by NOCAL to earn a career.
NOCAL will continue to make such interventions because they make a difference in the lives of young people and generate long lasting impacts when utilized appropriately. Without such interventions many young people may never reach their full potential.