Liberia: Twenty-year-old trade standards modernized, creating employment opportunities for youth

USAID/OTI's BRDG-Liberia program, or "Building Recovery and Reform through Democratic Governance," began in September 2006 in order to support the political transition prompted by the free and fair election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female head of state in Africa.

This new program approach will help further three specific political objectives:

- Assist the Government of Liberia and other key actors to improve capacity in such areas as effective planning, budgeting, communication and coordination with relevant counterparts;

- Assist the Government of Liberia and other key actors to mount effective political responses to high visibility issues;

- Support regional activities aimed at strengthening the Mano River Union.

The USAID Mission in Liberia as well as USAID's Africa Bureau and the office of Democracy and Governance are key players in the coordination of the BRDG program.

Liberia's Agricultural and Industrial Training Bureau (AITB) is responsible for developing trade standards and tests, supervising apprenticeships, and certifying tradespersons. However, 14 years of civil war have contributed to the neglect of government agencies, thus, preventing AITB from fulfilling its designated role. The current trade standards, which were last established 20 years ago, are out of date and do not support the modern skills necessary to reconstruct and repair the public infrastructure destroyed in the war.

Sixty percent of Liberians are under 30 years old and as many as 80% of these youth are unemployed, in large part due to the lack of skills needed for gainful and legitimate employment. These unemployed youth are politically important as they have the potential to undermine the momentum gained by the new democratic Liberian government. In an effort to address this concern, USAID/OTI through BRDG-Liberia, is providing critical in-kind grant support and short term technical assistance to AITB. Revised standards and a mechanism for national trade testing will be used to certify thousands of Liberian youth, who can then use the certification to make a meaningful and positive contribution to the country's economic recovery and reconstruction.

This intervention focused on using the standards revised through a previous OTI grant to develop new and improved test scripts in the fields of auto mechanics, plumbing, carpentry, masonry, electricity, and electronics. Eighteen experts from vocational and technical institutions around Monrovia participated in the revision, guided by a consultant with expertise in vocational training in Liberia. The activity culminated in a pre-testing exercise by 30 skilled technicians who made recommendations which further enhanced the quality of the final test scripts. AITB is now distributing the revised tests to 10 vocational schools throughout Liberia and the new standards have become the benchmark for the evaluation and certification of Liberia's tradespersons.

For further information, please contact: In Washington: John Gattorn, Program Manager, 202-712-4168,