Empowering women for male- dominated construction sector - YIEDIE shows the way

BY: Kingsley Boateng
Some of the young women taking instructions on aluminium fabrication
Some of the young women taking instructions on aluminium fabrication

Historically, Ghana’s construction sector is characteristically a male-dominated sector as most women shy away from playing a key role in the industry. However, the trend is gradually changing as efforts are being made by stakeholders to encourage women, especially the youth, to play a key role in the sector and explore the numerous opportunities it presents.

One notable organisation that is leaving no stone unturned to prepare and build the capacity of the youth including women to be major players in the industry and contribute their quota to the overall development of the country is Global Communities, an international non-profit organisation.

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The non-governmental organisation under its Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Development (YIEDIE) project has been nurturing and building the capacity of the youth to venture and succeed in the industry.

Rationale behind the Bootcamp

Among other programmes, YIEDIE last month organised a four-day mentorship and skills training programme for forty-one young female artisans drawn from Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi to build their skills and capacity to take up job opportunities in the construction sector.

The bootcamp sought to engage female youth in team-based construction activities to refine their technical skills and empower them to be competitive in the job market.


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Aluminium fabricators at work

The programme convened female graduates of the YIEDIE project to participate in intensive, hands-on construction activities and gain insight from the industry’s leading female figures.

The participants including tilers, electricians, plumbers, heavy machine operators, interior decorators, aluminium fabricators and painters, who have been receiving training in variety of trades, were strategically selected based on the current needs of the industry.

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Each of the four days of activities were packed with exciting activities and speeches from key industry players, keeping the young female artisans engaged and energised. Each activity was aimed at teaching participants, critical lessons on what it takes to be a successful artisan.

Practical works

The participants were grouped based on their trade area and carried out construction activities, under the guidance of a highly skilled master craftsman. It started with brainstorming, followed by analysing the work site, and finally carrying out the tasks as a team.

The aluminium fabricators, tilers, plumbers, and painters convened in an empty, unfinished room to plan out how they intended to transform it into a functional space.

The aluminium fabricators built frames and installed windows in the empty spaces in the walls. The tilers smoothed out the surface of the ground and perfectly laid tiles to the admiration of the project supervisors.

The plumbers fixed pipes and constructed a sink for the room, with pipes leading outside to the water source. The painters also exhibited skills being taught them at the training.

Some of the female graduates of the YIEDIE project mixing paint for their practical work

Although the groups were separate, each group had to work together to make sure the placement was appropriate and that no group’s work would compromise the quality of the others.

The electricians were not left out of the practical work. The group dazzled spectators with their pristine, calculated installation of electrical wires, demonstrating their expertise by explaining the ins-and-outs of the project to bystanders.

In the end, the group held a “lighting ceremony”, where they would turn on the light and see if the wiring worked. Spectators joined the group in celebration as the lights brightened up the place, changing into various colours.

Words of motivation to participants

The YIEDIE Project Director, Mrs Vera Kafui Mills-Odoi, speaking at one of the sessions explained that the maiden bootcamp was aimed at further building the skills of the young women in the construction industry.

She said the beneficiaries were selected from about 12,000 youth who had benefited from the YIEDIE Project.

Mrs Mills-Odoi said employers in the construction sector complained about the poor skills and capacity of the youth in the construction sector.

“There is a skills gap and mismatch between what the construction industry needs and what the students were taught at school,” she said.

The Project Director said the YIEDIE Bootcamp was to bring some of the young women artisans who had benefited from the YIEDIE Project together to prepare them for the job market.

“The programme is to expose the young women artisans to architects and master craftsmen and professionals in the construction sector to mentor, train and equip them with the right professional skills to become employable and marketable in the construction industry,” she said.

The YIEDIE Project Director said the objective of the four-day training programme was to equip the participants with the marketing, communication, branding and customer relations skills to become competitive in the construction industry.

Prizes

The participants who emerged winners in the practical training exercise were presented with prizes.

The Chief Executive Officer of Zella Architects, Mrs Gizella Tetteh-Agbotui, a mentor for the YIEDIE Project, urged the young female artisans to continue to upgrade their skills to become relevant to the industry.

She also encouraged them to follow the ethics of the profession and avoid acts which would ruin their profession.

Mrs Tetteh-Agbotui urged the participants to learn multiple skills to become employable in the construction industry.

She commended Global Communities for initiating the YIEDIE Project, saying it was practically oriented and tailored to meet the needs of the beneficiaries and the construction industry.

The Policy and Sustainability Specialist for the YIDIE Project, Mr Maxwell Agyei Ashon, said the programme imbibed in the youthful women artisans the spirit of self belief and confidence so that they could work in the construction sector.

He said traditionally, the construction industry was seen as an industry for males.

Thus to attract young women to enter the construction industry, Mr Ashon said, there was the need to whip up their interest, build their confidence and encourage them to enter the industry.

The YIEDIE Project

The Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE), is a five-year project to create economic opportunities in Ghana’s construction sector for economically disadvantaged youth.

It is being implemented by Global Communities (formerly CHF International) in partnership with Mastercard Foundation. YIEDIE will directly reach at least 23,700 youth with training in technical, life and entrepreneurship skills leading to employment.

The project applies an integrated, youth-led market-systems model to improve the capacity of youth and service providers across the value chain. It is training young women and men in technical construction skills and helping the youth to grow and start small businesses.

It is also increasing collaboration and support among construction sector stakeholders to improve their enabling environment. The project is currently in its fourth year of implementation. By the end of the third year, a total of 12,862 youth completed training in entrepreneurial or technical skills under the YIEDIE project, of which 4,417 were women.

Out of the total number of young women participants, 2,942 completed construction-based technical training.