A study report has revealed that the Liberian labor force lacks skills to meet the bulk of the immediate hiring needs of mining companies operating in the country, while local businesses similarly suffer significant financial and technical constraints to meet mining companies’ demands.
The report, presented in Monrovia on Thursday, 25 September by Kayla Casavant and Daniel Togba, was authored by Building Markets- a non-profit organization implementing the USAID’s sustainable marketplace initiative, with additional support from the Australian Government. Worst in the report concerning the Liberian labor force, is a revelation that 56 percent of adults here have never attended or completed primary school, consequently leaving large percent of the workforce unskilled.
According to the report, scholarship programs have increased at the University of Liberia’s Geology and Mining Program, but the lack of practical experience, outdated methods and unsound grasp of basic mathematical and scientific principles restrict new graduates to assistant positions under foreign professionals.
On the business side, the report disclosed that local suppliers were not adequately prepared to tap into opportunities for supplying goods and services to the mining sector. What is even worrisome, according to the report, is that fruits, locally produced by Liberian farmers in close proximity to mining areas are mostly left to be patronized by local consumers, as most procurements done by these companies, including major purchases are not procured to benefit Liberian businesses.
Currently, the report noted, firms with either more than 50 percent Liberia ownership or that undertake significant value addition in the Liberia account for just 12 percent of current mining procurement expenditure. Value addition is the extent to which local raw materials, labor or capitals are used in the production of goods and services.
The report also indicated that demand projection showed that by 2016, aggregate demand from the mining sector could reach US$2.2 billion, and will be driven by major mining construction projects which include investments in infrastructure such as railway and roads. But some Liberian officials have been trying to respond to concerns raised during the presentation of the report that companies should take some moral and social responsibility in addition to agreements they have signed with the government, in terms of promoting local contents and upgrading of skills.
The Project Director of the National Investment Commission or NIC, Mr. Andrew Anderson said working with the UNDP and USAID, the commission would like to develop a comprehensive local content policy, saying they are even looking at local content law going through Legislation in the future. The head for Government Relations and Corporate Affairs at the Putu Iron Ore Mining, Incorporated, Madam Sedia Massaquoi-Bangoura said direct job provision was limited in the labor force’s deficiencies.
In an attempt to discourage Liberians from pursuing just any kind of training to go after skills that are demanded by companies and the job market, Madam Bangoura suggested the need for prior consultations with relevant sectors before coming up with trainings.