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news | February 21, 2011 | Iraq | Development

Durable skills for durable futures in Iraq

© ACTED 2011

ACTED fosters vocational skills through a new apprenticeship scheme


Hamad is a 22 year old job seeker. He is married and has two children. Prior to joining ACTED’s apprenticeship scheme, Hamed spent his time searching for jobs or working wherever he could in order to make ends meet and provide for his family. Through ACTED’s apprenticeship scheme, however, he has been trained in valuable carpentry skills thus increasing his chances of getting a decently paid job. In the workshop where he is being trained he looks proudly at the cupboard that is slowly taking shape. Hamed is one of 20 beneficiaries enrolled in ACTED’s pilot apprenticeship scheme in Thi Qar Governorate, and all of them are equally determined to succeed in a very difficult environment.

Thi Qar is a southern governorate of Iraq located about 380 kilometres south of Baghdad with a population just under 1.5 million. In 2003 Thi Qar’s capital Nassariya witnessed some of the fiercest fighting with heavy resistance to U.S. forces early on in the conflict. However, in 2006 it became the second governorate to be handed over to Iraqi Security Forces and it has seen relative stability ever since. As a primarily agricultural region, widespread unemployment and the recent drought affecting large parts of Iraq have hit Thi Qar particularly hard.

Nassariya is the fourth largest city in Iraq. Unemployment is high, especially within IDP communities who have been uprooted from their homes and have lost their traditional vocations with no new prospects for labor. As a result of these factors, ACTED has commenced a pilot scheme to provide vocational training to determined young men and women in an effort to give them long-lasting skills to support a livelihood for themselves and their families. After researching the local demands for vocational skills, ACTED selected 5 different apprenticeship programmes to benefit a total of 20 determined individuals. The vocational skills identified are hairstyling, blacksmithing, carpentry, air-conditioning repair and car repair and maintenance.

Due to cultural norms and values in the area, choices for women seeking to work are very limited. This can pose great difficulties, especially amongst female-headed households. Often widowed, these women seek to provide for their families but face cultural barriers that frequently prevent them from doing so. This was the case with Ranna, aged 28, who had no means of income and couldn’t support her family. But through ACTED’s apprenticeship activity, Ranna received a stipend with which she could provide for her children and learn to be a hairdresser. Her hard work during her apprenticeship has been paying off, as her trainer is considering hiring her after she finishes the programme.

The pilot project has proven to be a success so far. As Hamad, a 22-year old unemployed laborer, said, “Before enrolling in the apprenticeship scheme I spent months looking for a job so that I could provide for the basic needs of my family. I couldn’t find anything. But now I have the opportunity to earn my living learning a new profession that I enjoy. I hope to continue being a carpenter after I finish my training.”