By Catherine Sasman
A landmark pilot project was launched with the clinching of a multi-partnered deal to provide truck driver training for unemployed men on the side of primarily Windhoek’s roads.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was yesterday signed between the ‘Men on the Side of the Road’ (MSR) project, the EMS Driver Academy, Jowells Transport Namibia and the German Development Service (DED) to train 10 men identified to meet the increasing growth in road-based cargo transport.
The initiative was kick-started in 2006 with Bank Windhoek’s SME Post-Loan Mentorship programme, and has since expanded to include agreements with FNB, SMEs Compete, Air Namibia, Pupkewitz Holdings and the Walvis Bay Corridor Group that promotes Namibia’s trade corridors in the region and internationally.
Its purpose, said Achim Mortier of DED, is to contribute to job creation, and to bolster the long-haul road-based transport sector that is bogged down with a perennial skills shortage.
DED is contributing 40 percent of the total intervention costs, while the three private partners have contributed the remaining 60 percent.
The training will be followed by a three-month internship with an established Namibian transport company, after which candidates can find permanent positions as drivers.
In choosing the candidates, the EMS Driver Academy conducted an accident-prone test (or a psychomotor evaluation) and road sign tests.
Candidates will undergo a maximum of 20 hours of training to receive a heavy vehicle licence, which will be complemented with a 24-hour defensive driving training.
Candidates passing the first hurdle were subjected to a literacy test, as preference was given to those with Grade 10 or 12 schooling, but, said chairperson of MSR, Johan Swanepoel, recruitment was done in an all-inclusive fashion.
“Our candidates did well on the EMS tests and showed a tremendous and admirable commitment to the process,” said Swanepoel.
“The focus of the training that we provide is to empower road users and potential road users to understand and translate driving practices and skills to such an extent to minimise road accidents and incidents,” said Louis Conradie of the EMS Driving Academy.
“[We] see this initiative as part of our social responsibility to give back to our community. Every day we see more and more people on the side of the road looking for job opportunities. The little we are doing today to train these individuals will have a big impact on their lives,” said Robert Benade, Regional Manager of Jowells Transport Namibia.
MSR was initiated last year to address the needs of the hundreds of unemployed men who flock to the sides of the roads in search of work.
Most of these men, said Swanepoel, typically go home “without a job, without an income and without dignity”.
MSR has a database of about 900 men – ranging from their late teens to over 70 years of age – actively seeking employment.
So far, MSR has found permanent employment for 29 men and 63 temporary jobs. It has initiatives that will potentially create job opportunities for its members.