By Erald Lamja and Nevila Popa –
With almost 16,000 families, the Municipality of Elbasan has some of the largest numbers of poor families that live on social assistance from the government (INSTAT 2017). During communism, the city relied heavily on industry and imported thousands of workers from all over the country. Nowadays, a minor portion of what was once the largest plant in the country is still operational and employs only a few hundred workers. Elbasan is still home to Albania’s heavy industry, including the steel plant, cement factory, ferrochrome workshops, etc. Over the last three decades, youth interest in attending education on metallurgy shrank as the industry itself collapsed with the fall of communism.
AlbChrome, an Albanian company and part of Balfin Group, is one of the companies operating in the ferrochrome industry. Its workers are close to retirement age and the company is facing a shortage of qualified and skilled workforce. As a result, the company reached out to USAID’s Planning and Local Governance Project to support them in coordinating their investing in vocational education to secure skilled labor for its ferrochrome plant. With support from PLGP, AlbChrome collaborated with Elbasan’s Ali Myftiu Vocational High School to establish a foundry-metallurgy class for the 2018 academic year.
In May, PLGP facilitated an “Open Day” for the 11th grade students to visit the Ferrochrome Factory in Elbasan. Over 50 Mechanical Branch students joined this field trip and participated in a tour provided by the factory’s chief engineer. Students expressed their interest by making various questions and probing into some of the employment opportunities in the factory.
USAID’s PLGP cooperated with the Vocational School and the AlbChrome team to run a promotional campaign and produce a promotional video to attract interested students. The video focused on vocations prioritized by the school with the goal of increasing the enrollment rate for this academic year. The video specifically highlighted the employment opportunities with AlbChrome upon graduation from metallurgy/foundry class, and was later aired by local media, the school, the company, USAID/Albania social media and PLGP website.
As a result of this promotional campaign, 27 students of the third grade of the mechanical branch have enrolled in the foundry-metallurgy course. This will greatly increase employment opportunities for these students living in Elbasan and its surrounding areas. AlbChrome is providing free transport service for students coming from Elbasan’s vicinity. “I see great interest shown by the students and that motivates me a lot,” says Teacher Viron Greco, a metallurgy engineer by profession.
In addition to theory classes, students will practice their newly-acquired knowledge at the foundry unit of the Metallurgy Plant of Elbasan. Students will work under the close supervision of skilled engineers so that they are fully trained and qualified for the job. The foundry-metallurgy students will have special uniforms. Qualified teachers, with salaries paid by AlbChrome on this ambitious project, will teach this class and supervise the internship program at the ferrochrome plant.
Those who demonstrate skills, qualities, and motivation will have the opportunity to secure employment in the foundry unit managed by AlbChrome. Other students who shoot for leadership profiles and wish to pursue university studies in Tirana will have the opportunity to secure scholarships from the company.
USAID is working to provide tailored assistance to municipalities and the private sector to promote competitiveness and job creation. The project is cooperating with private and public stakeholders in our partner municipalities that support economic growth and development.
Photo by Erald Lamja