How learning welding skills can provide for a whole family in West Africa
Rumario started out welding like most other young people in Guinea-Bissau who want to learn a trade skill: He found someone who’s already working, and watched and learned. In West Africa, these informal internships are common. But they have many shortcomings, including inconsistent quality and a lack of tools to practice with.
Rumario’s extended family of nine people – including an ill uncle – were relying on him to provide for them, and the internship wasn’t cutting it. Rumario knew he could do better.
One day, he came across a local welder named Papa Mendes who was doing impressive work. Papa told him that he had learned to weld at West African Vocational Schools (WAVS). So Rumario enrolled in the nine-month course at the WAVS School. He worked weekends and evenings to pay for his tuition. And thanks to the One Student community who help cover the cost of the welding course, the fees were affordable for Rumario – less than $10/month.
The training was exactly what Rumario needed. After graduating in 2016, he opened up a makeshift workshop.
“I have a lot of work now that I have graduated and have the skills and tools to do good work,” Rumario said while showing off his shop. “Before, I worked for others and got very little money. Now, I am doing my own jobs!”
Rumario said the quality of his work has improved dramatically.
“Before my WAVS course, I just welded, but didn’t know how to check the quality of my welds,” he said. “At the school, I learned to check the quality of my welds to see if they are good, and if not, how to fix them.”
His clients have noticed the difference.
“They come to me to do their work because they see that I do quality work,” Rumario said.
Rumario also benefited from the WAVS New Entrepreneur’s Program (NEP), which allowed him to purchase new tools at a discounted price. He said the tools have helped improve the quality of his work and attracted more clients.
Rumario shares his adobe brick workshop with a local carpenter. It sits on a main road next to the town’s transit center. He pays for his share of the electricity to run a generator. With the steady income from his workshop, Rumario and his brother, a mechanic, are now able to provide for their extended family.
“WAVS gave me the training and experience I needed to be confident enough to take any job related to welding and do it,” Rumario said. “Now I have the courage to do any job I want to do.”
And Rumario doesn’t want to stop here.
“I’ve learned a lot, but my dream is to learn more,” he said.
This article was written by Holly Collins, WAVS Board Adviser.
The welding skills that Rumario received at the WAVS School allow him to provide for himself and his family.
You can equip young people like Rumario with the skills they need to provide for themselves and their families — for a lifetime.
Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but this only covers about 25% of the total cost. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. Join the One Student community and make an impact in the lives of young people in Guinea-Bissau, One Student at a time.