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An Innovative Driving Force for UNIDO’s Vocational Skills Training in Iraq


By: William Goldsmith, UNIDO

April of this year marked an exciting milestone for UNIDO’s Agro-Industries Technology Unit and their partners, with the official opening of the Swedish Academy for Training (SAT) in Kurdistan, Iraq. Its inauguration signals a promising approach in delivery, with an innovative public-private partnership driving the wheel for project implementation.

The SAT is a vocational skills training center established by UNIDO in partnership with Scania, a major Swedish automotive industry manufacturer and distributor of heavy vehicles, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), international education company Education First and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA).

Unemployment remains a serious problem in Iraq, especially for young people. The lack of skilled Iraqi laborers stalls the development of industry and the economy as a whole and, for Scania, finding skilled mechanics in Iraq has proven to be a huge challenge. The main objective of the SAT is to train vulnerable, unemployed youths in mechanical skills, computing and the English language. Courses in advanced mechanics, driver training and sales and marketing are also in the pipeline to expand and upscale the Academy’s services. “This initiative combines Sida’s mission to create economic opportunities for young Iraqis with the need of the industry to recruit skilled workers in the region. This way we are able to make much larger and more innovative investments, which benefits everyone,” says Henrik Riby, Sida’s coordinator for Business for Development.

After graduation, the academy will help connect newly qualified students with Scania, enabling them to put their technical skills to productive use in the company’s vehicle maintenance centre in Erbil, as well as other companies in the region. The academy will essentially train a larger number of mechanics that Scania would employ, but students will not be tied to working exclusively for the multinational company.

UNIDO, Scania, SIDA and MoLSA are all members of the Project Steering Committee (PSC), the overall governing body of this initiative. In liaison with other partners, UNIDO developed the objectives and governance structure of the project and is also in charge of the daily management of activities and remains the focal point for coordination. Scania provides guidance on the development of the SAT’s vocational programs and specialist training on equipment and infrastructure. The multinational ensures that the Academy’s training program is well tuned to industry requirements and international standards. Sida, who contributed the lion’s share of the funding, helps to inform the strategic direction of the project.

Partners are keen that the skills, industry knowledge and technical know-how developed through the project are transferred for wider application for the benefit of the people of Iraq. The close involvement of the Kurdistan Regional Government as a partner ensures local ownership and future sustainability of the initiative. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs not only provides the facilities where the academy is based, but also provides trainers and support staff for the Academy to work alongside the project’s delivery team.

Following on the initial success of the SAT, UNIDO and Scania have now entered into an agreement to develop a Learning and Knowledge Development (LKD) Facility. The Facility will serve as a platform for collaborative learning, knowledge sharing and transfer of best practices as well as to support policy considerations and advocate the scheme. The project’s three core components consist of a results-based learning and knowledge development system, management training for national counterparts and a projects development facility. Now in its inception phase, the LKD Facility is scheduled for implementation in March 2013 and will initially address the UNIDO/Scania project in Iraq and another project recently initiated in Uruguay in partnership with automation specialists FESTO. At least two additional projects will also fall under its remit. These projects will be similar in objectives to the Scania project and will be implemented in developing countries with private sector business partners.

For more information on the Learning and Knowledge Development Facility, please contact Virpi Stucki, Industrial Development Office, Agro-Industries Technology Unit, UNIDO.

For further information on the Swedish Academy for Training, please contact William Goldsmith, Technical Advisor, Agro-Industries Technology Unit, UNIDO.