The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Government of Japan, the Government of Zambia, and Hitachi Construction Machinery company are joining forces to address the growing demand for skilled equipment operators in Zambia’s construction and mining industries.
With the shift in Zambian economy towards more capital and skill-intensive sectors such as mining, construction, transportation and manufacturing, the demand for technical skills for the operation of heavy equipment operation has increased. However, construction and mining sector employers struggle to find skilled workers who meet modern machinery operational skills requirements. The situation is compounded by the need to integrate Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies into heavy machinery operations.
Through a public-private development partnership (PPDP), the four-year project will align industrial skills development to the needs of the industry and the labour market, ultimately fostering productive youth employment. This will be achieved by jointly establishing a centre of excellence for construction equipment operator workers at the Kitwe Vocational Training Centre (KVTC). Starting from the third year of project implementation, more than 125 skilled operators are expected to graduate from KVTC on an annual basis.
An exchange of notes between Ryuta Mizuuchi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Republic of Zambia, and Khaled El Mekwad, UNIDO Representative of the Regional Office in South Africa, confirmed the financial support of the Government of Japan.
The guest of honour, Honourable Felix C Mutati, Minister of Technology and Science, remarked: “Our focus on this programme will be to bridge that skills gap, but focusing on shifting the curriculum, the learning, orienting it to practical skills that address the challenges that we are facing in the mining and construction industries, focusing on lifting up the vulnerable people, the young women, so that they participate in the job market. And my Ministry is going to shift the focus so that locally we train and empower our people through skills so that we minimise the importation of labour. This we can do as a country and we are fairly equipped.”
Ryuta Mizuuchi, Ambassador of Japan to Zambia, said: “With this exchange of notes, we are launching a unique project providing the Zambian youth with opportunities of vocational training, with the participation of Hitachi Construction Machinery Zambia and UNIDO. This project will certainly support the new Zambian Government under President Hichilema in human resources development as he attempts to empower more young Zambians for the purpose of sustainable development.”
“While educational needs globally are immense, the private sector can leverage their resources and core competencies to support governments to enhance skills development and help unlock the necessary investments to ensure quality learning opportunities are accessible. Projects such as this one can help Zambia achieve this,” reflected Coumba Mar Gadio, Resident Coordinator of United Nations in Zambia.
Khaled El Mekwad, UNIDO Representative, stated: “UNIDO is pleased to facilitate the interests of public and private sector stakeholders to strengthen the quality and relevance of vocational training and support Zambia’s inclusive and sustainable industrial development within the framework of UNIDO’s Programme for Country Partnership (PCP) which is fully aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Partnership Framework in Zambia and the country’s Seventh National Development Plan.”
Hideki Hattori, Company President of Hitachi Construction Machinery Zambia, said: “Hitachi Construction Machinery Zambia is very pleased to be part of this programme in partnership with UNIDO, together with the Governments of Zambia and Japan. This will enable us to further contribute to the Zambian society as part of our CSR and skills development agenda and vision. We know that this will not only be a unique achievement but also a platform to continuously engage the cooperating partners in further improvements and opportunities as we continue to operate within Zambia. We hope other companies will emulate our example and consider similar projects in other sectors within Zambia.”
The exchange of notes in Lusaka was followed by the signing of a Joint Declaration between Yuko Yasunaga, Head of the ITPO Tokyo of UNIDO, and Kotaro Hirano President and CEO of Hitachi Construction Machinery, at Hitachi Construction Machinery’s head office in Tokyo, confirming cooperation towards promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development in developing countries and economies in transition.