Uganda - Young welders are forging themselves a new destiny
Youth inclusion & education - Committed to empowering socially at risk people
A major training program is providing young Ugandans in the Albertine region and the districts around the forthcoming EACOP oil pipeline with internationally recognized welding skills. This one-of-a-kind initiative is giving them the keys to unlocking the oil and gas industry, the labor market, and a better life.
Isaac Ocungi had always been fascinated by the welders working along Uganda’s roadsides. As a child, he would watch on mesmerized as they assembled and repaired all sorts of metallic items, from car bodies to barbecues. “I wanted to do the same from a very young age,” he explains. Even as he left his northern hometown of Nebbi to study industrial engineering and management in the capital of Kampala, the idea stayed with him.
An international certification
At the age of 24, he graduated with a solid technical background, a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Kyambogo University. “But I soon found out that the knowledge I acquired during my studies had not given me the practical skills needed to carry out the same work as those welders,” he remembers. “There was still a big gap in my knowledge that I needed to fill to do the work I had always longed to do!”
So, when Total E&P Uganda launched their welder training program in early 2018, he jumped at the chance. Adverts calling for applicants were broadcast on the local radio stations by professional training schools, posters were placed at the district government offices & vocational training institutes, and information shared with the local authorities. “I applied immediately and was selected along with 24 other Ugandans to study 2G and 4G welding.” They finished their training in late 2018, quickly followed by 50 more welders in the 2019 cohorts and 75 welders in the 2020 cohorts, all of whom were assessed for certification in line with international norms and standards such as the American Welding Society1 (AWS) and ISO 9606-1.
A program overseen by GIZ E4D2
Running for a total of three months complete with full-board accommodation, the training program allows them to perfect their Horizontal (2G), Vertical (3G), and Overhead (4G) Welding Position techniques, along with some Pipe Welding (6G) techniques, too. Their classroom training is bolstered by on-site practical workshops at welding stations. The classes are also dedicated to acquiring knowledge and skill-sets in Health, Safety, Quality, and Environment (HSQE). The teaching complies with the oil and gas industry’s standards and requirements, completed with Working Safely certification from reputable agencies such as Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and ECITB ICE (International Competence in Engineering).
The curriculum is delivered by Ugandan service providers The Assessment and Skilling Centre (TASC), Solid Rock Life & Business, and Sunmaker Energy, and is fully funded by Total E&P Uganda. The group works in partnership with the German development agency GIZ E4D – Employment and Skills for Development in Africa which is responsible for monitoring and providing technical advice for the project as well as integrating some of their own programs such as the Entrepreneurship and Soft Skills training, drawing on its experience in developing, designing, and deploying skill development programs. In 2019, Total decided to launch a second training program focusing on quality control in welding audits and inspections.
A gateway to integration
The professionalization of welding in Uganda through international certification is one of the improvements to the welding industry in the country and the region in general. The skilling and capacity building activities are part of the Tilenga oil development project in the Buliisa and Nwoya districts near Lake Albert, and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project that will carry oil to Tanga, Tanzania’s second largest port. The trained welders all come from the Albertine region and the districts dotted along the pipeline route.
The skills acquired will allow the local labor force to find work on the oil pipeline and refinery sites as certified technicians. In doing so, the program bolsters young people’s financial independence, giving them the tools to take control of their future and actively contribute to the country’s development. It is a strong commitment to the local communities living around the upcoming installations. The training they receive opens the doors to a number of other employment opportunities in various sectors, in other Ugandan regions and in all other countries where they might like to build their careers.
I am now looking forward to the development of the Tilenga and EACOP projects to take part in them. This is the key to a promising future.
Towards a better life
A networking system with former trainees has been rolled out to support them throughout their careers. Several of them have been recruited by local companies such as Fabrication Systems Uganda Limited, which specializes in civil engineering and steel and aluminum manufacturing. The teaching staff have also set up an engineering unit for some of those who have yet to find work.
“Taking part in this program definitely improved my life,” says Isaac Ocungi. “In late 2019, together with fellow trainees we set up our own welding company, Coded Welders and Contractors (U) Limited. I am the HSE Manager”. Thanks to the skills they have acquired, they now stand out on the national job market, manufacturing high-quality metallic products that meet the highest of international standards and norms: barbecue grills, bed frames, doors, windows, gates and fences, and children's playsets. “We have succeeded in getting the company registered in Uganda’s national oil and gas supplier database,” he adds. “I am now looking forward to the development of the Tilenga and EACOP projects in order for us to take part in them. This is the key to a promising future.”
Taking part in the program definitely improved my life.
150 certified welders trained since 2018 in six cohorts of 25 students. 15% of whom are women.
225 trainees planned to join the program in 2021 including Quality Control Inspectors.
1: A not-for-profit aimed at advancement in science, technology, and welding applications, as well as cutting, brazing, welding, and thermal spraying processes.
2: GIZ, the German international development agency. The agency is actively involved in fostering international training, helping individuals, governments, and companies around the world to build their own futures and improve their living conditions.