Lafarge Africa: Building host community’s economy through skills acquisition, youth empowerment 

Without a doubt, with Lafarge Africa, a member of Holcim Group, the world’s leader in innovative and sustainable building solutions in limestone-rich communities of Ewekoro and Sagamu, unquantifiable development has been brought to the host communities in Ogun State. 

In fact, through skills acquisition and youth empowerment initiatives, the organization is economically engaging the growing population of youths in host communities across the country, especially in Ewekoro and Sagamu communities and also impacting the local economies positively. 

Recall that Lafarge Africa PLC established the Cement Professional Technician Program (CPTP) in 2012 which was designed as a three-year intensive training for the science and technology-based secondary school leavers for comprehensive training in cement production, instrumentation and control engineering.

In addition, Lafarge Africa has launched its Lafarge Driving Institute (LDI) in the South West region to train drivers, ensure the availability of well-trained drivers within its operations and underscore the company’s commitment to logistics safety, gender diversity and inclusion and job creation within its host communities.

Lafarge Africa's youth empowerment programme also cuts across various vocational training programmes including barbing, hair dressing, tailoring & fashion designing, automobile tyre vulcanizing, and make-up artistry, among others. Over the years, the company has trained interested youths drawn from its host communities and also provided start-up tools for trainees. 

Speaking at the CPTP graduation ceremonies held recently, Khaled El Dokani, Country Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Africa PLC stated that Lafarge Africa’s skills acquisition and youth empowerment scheme was initiated by the company to contribute to the growth and development of its host communities and states. 

Dokani noted that some trainees were meant to be absorbed into the system; some of them that are school leavers would secure admissions into higher institutions of learning anywhere in the world; while some would be gainfully employed by themselves and create job opportunities for people to work and earn a means of livelihood.

He said, "The focus on our communities is further demonstrated by our contribution to the improvement of the quality of lives through setting up local development programmes in key areas that have a direct impact on the socio-economic well-being of the people and their environment”.

Gbemiga Owolabi, the Organization and Human Resources Director during the event remarked: "As a result of our strong commitment to people development, the Lafarge Africa Training Centre was established to initiate and conduct various technical and socio-economic training and programmes, with the prospect of achieving the developmental objectives of the company. The Lafarge Africa Training Centre has created various training schemes, of which the Cement Professional Technician Programme (CPTP) is one of them.”

He added that the programme aims to promote local talent. “CPTP is aimed at building and supporting the local talent from Lafarge Africa’s host communities nationwide, to bridge the skill gap in the cement industry.

"This programme will create opportunities for employment for successful participants and expose them to cross-cultural, theoretical, practical, mentoring, and coaching experiences that will positively impact their lives and career."

Micheal Shokunbi, the Head of Industrial Learning and Development of Africa Plc, stated that the CPTP was created to achieve a single central programme to serve the technical manpower needs of all Lafarge Africa’s plants in Nigeria. According to him, some of the trainees have been absorbed as technical staff of the company. 

“CPTP also serves as a pipeline through which gaps created through promotion, retirement or voluntary exits, will be filled and to produce multi-layer skilled technicians capable of taking up all entry positions in the plant, such as maintenance, production, quality assurance and many more", he explained. 

Corroborating Lafarge Africa’s stance on skills acquisition and youth empowerment in the Ewekoro community, some trainees, who cut across skills acquisition and vocational training programs, agreed that Lafarge Africa PLC has impacted the host community positively and many youths have been gainfully employed in addition to several job opportunities being created. 

Tosin Akinbobola, a pioneer trainee of the Cement Professional Technician Program (CPTP), commended Lafarge Africa for changing his life for the better with the CPTP scheme, which he said has made it possible for him to become the breadwinner of his nuclear and extended families. 

"I was lucky to be one of the first set of Cement Professional Technician Program at Ewekoro under the late Dr Agbede. We went through a rigorous and intensive class which made me stand out in my previous place of internship. Today, I am back at Ewekoro and I am enjoying the quality of my job and contribution coming from me to Lafarge Africa’s Cement Plant." 

Ashimiu Sanni, a barber from Elebute in Ewekoro community, narrated his own experience. He finished his vocational training as a barber, however, his parents could not afford start-up tools which prompted his parents to approach Lafarge Africa for assistance. 

"Today, I was not only offered start-up tools to set up a barbing saloon here in Ewekoro but was also given money to pay rent for my shop and other necessities. Now I can afford to feed my family. I thank you very much, Lafarge Africa", he said.

Also, Gbemisola Olukemi, a hairdresser from Papalanto, narrated her experience as a hairdressing trainee with Lafarge Africa, who received start-up tools such as a hair dryer and other tools with a furnished shop, saying: "I thank Lafarge Africa’s Committee on Ewekoro Development for the provision of a hair dryer and other start-up tools. I couldn't buy them if not for Lafarge Africa PLC."

Comrade Dauda Sekone of the leaders in the Ewekoro community, gave a different account of Lafarge Africa’s interventions, saying his son, was not only trained and set up by Lafarge Africa but also given an opportunity to sew school uniforms for pupils in various schools across the community, thereby employing some other youths as helping hands. 

"What Lafarge Africa has done for us in the Ewekoro community is uncountable; they have executed several interventions on education, skills acquisition and youth empowerment, community projects, elderly care, and agricultural intervention, among others they have changed our lives and economies for better, we can only ask for more like Oliver Twist", he said. 

Meanwhile, Chiefs and residents of the Ewekoro community have called on Lafarge Africa PLC to establish a full-fledged vocational training centre in Ewekoro where young school leavers would be trained in several vacations just like Lafarge Driving Institute and Cement Professional Technician Program Centre located within Lafarge Africa Ewekoro Cement Plants and other plants across the country. 

While Baale Abdul Waheed Onigbinde, Baale of Elebute, advocated for a full-fledged vocational training centre in the Ewekoro community where youths would be trained and empowered with start-up kits, Modinat Bolasodun asked for increased slots in all Lafarge Africa’s training centres in Ewekoro and other places for host communities to benefit more. 

"There should be a full-fledged vocational training centre here in Ewekoro, a situation whereby trade masters would be sourced outside for the trainees should be discouraged. Let's get them (trade masters) here to train our youths. Lafarge needs to train our people themselves, for quality control and ease, it should be centralised, let Lafarge train them here and get start-up kits for them to start themselves up after the training. 

"In addition, we appreciate the Cement Professional Technician Programme and we want Lafarge to increase the host community's slots, especially the Ewekoro community at the training school. We also want Lafarge Africa to employ the trainees since it would be a waste of time and resources if they (trainees) are being trained and not employed by Lafarge Africa, it would amount to working for somebody else's interest", they said.