Experts in youth and unemployment related issues have stressed over and again that it will take vocational empowerment or technical skills to help alleviate the huge unemployment rate and the vulnerable state of Liberian youths. And until the government takes heed by taking Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) seriously with substantive investment, the problem of youth vulnerability will persist. The young people make up over half of the nation’s population.
It was against this backdrop that the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO), two strong and technical arms of the government, thought it prudent to collaborate with Marcia Gallant, a US-based organization, to train scores of young people in various vocations.
The collaborating partners began a week-long capacity building training for several Liberian students in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), cosmetology and basic leadership skills that ended on Friday, March 24. The program ended with a brief ceremony where beneficiaries demonstrated what they have learned through PowerPoint presentations by the ICT and cosmetology students before their trainers and benefactors. The students were taught new skills in their fields — cutting, coloring and shampooing for the cosmetology, as well as website design and other meaningful ICT skills.
Minister of Education, George Werner, said although the knowledge has been acquired, the most difficult aspect now is how the students will comport themselves in their various areas of work to attract and maintain customers.
The minister stressed that customer service is a huge problem in Liberia; and as such, the beneficiaries should help change the status quo. “You need to learn how to manage your customers. The way you treat them, the way you talk to them, will set you apart,” he added.
He said: “This initiative was meant to add value to what you have been doing as your source of income. It is now up to you to apply what you have acquired and take your vocation to another level.”
The Minister lauded President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for supporting the program.
The head of the team of trainers, Marcia Gallant, after whom the organization is named, described the training as fruitful and the week, eventful. “I’m grateful to have interacted with a brilliant group of young people and our time here has been well spent.”
Marcia Gallant is an accomplished American hairstylist with over two decades of experience.
She noted that her project, the Marcia Gallant Mission Trip 2017 training, was geared towards educating, empowering and equipping less fortunate young Liberians to improve theirs and the lives of their communities.
“One of my requests was to reach out to students or individuals who have not had the opportunity or have not been fortunate like others living here. So those are the people that I was targeting; and I am happy that I did that,” she said.
Gallant said she wants to see the lives of aspiring cosmetologists transformed by providing an educational system using upgraded tools and cutting edge techniques, thus creating an optimal environment of eagerness to learn and improve the practice of professionalism in the country.
She added that her current trip to Liberia came as a result of her first visit, made in 2008, when she discovered that there was a need to help needy children, especially orphans.
She noted that the team this year comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds with the sole aim of providing knowledge to ordinary people.
“I think we have already impacted a lot of these students or individuals. This is the first time that they have done the coloring techniques. I shared that with them and they were so overwhelmed,” she said.
“Some of them have never really held a [pair of] scissors and didn’t know the different angles and how to achieve a particular look that I was looking for, or a particular [hair] cut.
“Knowing that I could be the first one to give them those hands on training, and seeing how excited they were, to me that was very strange because I have never thought something like this could ever exist.”
She, however, noted that one week was not enough and promised to engage with authorities to one day come back to Liberia.
Meanwhile, LIBTELCO Managing Director Darren Wilkins lauded Marcia Gallant for a job well done. He said the knowledge shared with the Liberian youth will remain a legacy for the future. He presented each of the 7-member visiting team gifts of expensive African cloths.
The beneficiaries lauded LIBTELCO, MOE and Marcia Gallant for the knowledge and pledged to live up to the expectations of the organizers.
“I’m very grateful to Marcia Gallant for this opportunity. What I have learned here is very new to this field so I’m happy that I’m one of the first to get such knowledge in Liberia,” Decontee Zeon said.
“We were taught IT, Cosmetology and Leadership Skills. For me, the 21 Laws of Leadership, the Laws of Influence and Empowerment are the ones that I love the most,” said Jestina Blackie, a student of the University of Liberia.
“I will market these skills to earn a living,” added another beneficiary. “This knowledge is so valuable that I will market it to earn my living and impact others.”