Four examples of how vocational schools use practical job skills training to help young people in West Africa

West African Vocational Schools has equipped more than 1,400 young people with life-changing job skills through practical training programs at locally-led vocational schools. After completing their courses, more than three out of four graduates find employment, start their own business, or continue with their studies. And most of them see a significant increase in their income, which means they can now provide for themselves and their families – for the rest of their lives!

Here are some of our favorite stories that highlight the impact of practical training and the ripple effect it has on people throughout West Africa.

1. She’s no longer working in a rock quarry

Guinea-Bissau is a Portuguese-speaking country. However, English and French are the business languages of West Africa. As a result, those who are fluent in English and French are able to get better-paying jobs in the government and business sectors.

Before attending English courses at the locally-led WAVS vocational school in Guinea-Bissau, Rosa worked at a rock quarry breaking rocks under the intense African sun. But she knew she wanted more.

After graduating from the WAVS vocational school’s English program, Rosa began teaching English to 10th graders at a private school. Now, Rosa helps open doors for young students and provides opportunities similar to what she received through the WAVS school.

Rosa English Graduate

“I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the experience and to continue to practice my English.”

ROSA, WAVS Graduate

2. Practical skills helped this university student succeed

After Vasco graduated from the WAVS vocational school’s computer course, he began teaching computer classes at a private high school in the capital of Guinea-Bissau. He also enrolled in a six-year medical school program, where he became the unofficial computer tutor to his med school peers – putting his practical skills to use and helping other succeed, as well!

Vasco is helping to create a new generation of hard-working, educated leaders by equipping students with valuable and useful skills,.

“The WAVS vocational school helped me a lot. I have a lot of expenses, but this job has given me the funds I need.”

VASCO, WAVS Graduate

WAVS Graduate Vaco now teaches a computer class

3. A graduate who now trains others

Students like Papa have have been given an opportunity to work for a brighter future. And now they’re passing that opportunity on to other young people in West Africa.

After graduating from the WAVS vocational school’s welding program, Papa decided to move back to his home village and put his practical job skills training to use. He opened his shop along the main road.

It wasn’t long before his work attracted the attention of several people interested in learning job skills. A few weeks after he opened his shop, a man walked up to him and asked if his nephew could work as Papa’s apprentice. Papa said yes.

Though apprenticeships are a form of informal education, they still provide access to practical skills training. The skills learned in these apprenticeships allow West Africans to provide for themselves and others in their community.

Papa WAVS welding graduate and his apprentice

“In this work, I can sustain myself. I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to end the vision here.”

PAPA, WAVS Graduate

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4. Welding — job skill to overcome poverty

For WAVS welding graduates like Cirilo, a reliable income was more than just a an opportunity to provide himself – it was also an opportunity to invest in the education of those around him.

Cirilo’s successful welding workshop allows for him to pay school fees for his siblings, including two brothers who are studying at university. In addition, Cirilo also paid for one of his seven apprentices to go through the same WAVS welding program that he graduated from. (Thanks to the One Student community who subsidizes the cost of the WAVS School, tuition was very affordable.)

Someday, he hopes to pay for all of his apprentices to go through the welding program.

“None of use are professors, secretaries or doctors, but I thank God for the profession he’s given us.”


Cirilo welding student at WAVS Vocational School in West Africa