ArcelorMittal Liberia has launched a literacy and numeracy program for its employees.
ArcelorMittal is the world's leading steel and mining company, with a presence in more than 60 countries and an industrial footprint in over 20 countries.
According to a press release, the Adult Basic Education Training (ABET) is aimed at employees who have not had a formal education. The program is now underway with 149 employees taking part at the company's Yekepa and Buchanan sites, in collaboration with USAID's Advancing Youth Project (AYP).
ArcelorMittal Liberia senior managers, facilitators from AYP, USAID representatives, and employees admitted into the program attended the launch events at both sites in late May.
Speaking at the launch in Buchanan, ArcelorMittal Liberia CEO, Antonio Carlos Maria, encouraged employees enrolled in the program: "you have made a bold decision, and we at ArcelorMittal Liberia will support your success in this program."
In Yekepa, mines manager Artur Gomez expressed the company's support for each employee as well as offering some advice: "You need to be committed to this program," said Gomez, "because we have shown our commitment by supporting you so you can attend this training."
Employees have been given paid leave in order to study on the literacy course, which takes place twice a week, with two five-hour sessions.
According to Gwendolyn Johnson, AYP representative, the six-month program will cover literacy and numeracy education, plus other skills to improve job performance and employees' lives as a whole.
Dr. John Malogo Kongola, head of the ArcelorMittal Liberia training and learning development department, who led the development of the project, said he and his team are encouraged by the excitement and enthusiasm shown by the group.
"The response, to this program among employees, has been very positive. A total of 149 employees registered, 64 in Yekepa and 85 in Buchanan," said Loveness Hoyange, one of the lead learning and development trainers at ArcelorMittal Liberia.
According to Hoyange, as more employees learn about the program, demand for places is rising, signaling a need to expand the program once the first group of students has completed the course.
"Three departments were selected at each site to ensure full implementation, and all other departments will be added later," said Hoyange. In Yekepa, candidates were selected from the mine, maintenance and estate departments, while in Buchanan candidates came from the port, rail and estate teams.
Placement tests were done for all 149 candidates to determine which one of three categories was the appropriate level. Level one is for those who cannot read or write at all; level two is for students who have attended grades 1 and 2 and have limited reading and writing abilities; and level three is for those who have attended school up to grade 3 or 4, with some limitations.
The USAID curriculum being used was developed in collaboration with the Liberia Ministry of Education. The program qualifies students who complete the course, to join the Liberia school system at Grade 7 if they wish to continue their education.
"I am impressed by the commitment of these men and women," said Gwendolyn Johnson who said that the ArcelorMittal Liberia students have shown a level of commitment beyond her previous experience: often after applicants take the placement test and once they learn the results, the majority do not pursue the course.
"This was different at ArcelorMittal Liberia," she said, "the numbers are encouraging and the learners are excited," she added.