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A dream made of bricks and mortar

Construction workers are in great demand in Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010. Skills, on the other hand, are in short supply.

Feature | 27 August 2012
Odette Buzy has learned to become a trainer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (ILO news) – “Growing up, our family never had a home we could call our own. We couldn’t afford to build one,” said Odette Buzy, one of the few women working in construction in Haiti.

As a child, Buzy dreamt of working in construction so that one day she would be able to build a home for her family. Today, her dream is coming true.

Buzy is one of 20 graduates from the ILO’s ‘Training-of-Trainers’ course in earthquake-resistant construction that recently took place in Haiti. Following her certification as a trainer, she will soon start training workers in earthquake-resistant construction as part of a new project in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Project “16 neighbourhoods/6 camps” (Project 16/6) is designed to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their places of origin. Currently, an estimated 400,000 people are still living in tents around Port-au-Prince following the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake of January 2010.
The project offers residents and those returning durable housing solutions. It also helps to improve living conditions through better access to basic services and income-generating activities.

Construction, a key sector

“The construction sector is the economic motor of Haiti. Through training programmes that are linked to labour market insertion, the ILO is actively supporting economic growth and furthering the decent work agenda in the country,” said Antonio Cruciani, ILO Country Director in Haiti.

Haïti: Facts and figures
  • In June 2012 - 2,5 years after the earthquake - 400,000 people were still living in tent camps around Port-au-Prince.
  • According to government estimates 6 out of 1000 workers in the labour market possess a diploma or certificate within a technical or professional field.
  • Since the earthquake, approximately 32% of aid money (over US$504 million) has been spent in the construction sector.
  • In 2010, the construction sector generated 27.8 million USD, which represented almost 10% of the GDP.
  • Increased investment in the construction sector in Haiti is projected to generate an additional USD 3.59 billion by 2015.
Project 16/6 is funded by multiple donors through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF). It is run by Haitians and executed by the ILO, UNDP, UNOPS and IOM.
The labour market demands within the construction sector have grown considerably since the earthquake struck in 2010. To address these shortages, companies and workers with technical and management skills in construction have been brought in from other countries, including the Dominican Republic and Brazil. But this is not a sustainable solution. The ILO component within Project 16/6 seeks to address these skills deficits and promote local economic development.

The ILO will train a total of 60 trainers and 1,500 workers over the next two years in earthquake-resistant, standards-based construction techniques. These trained workers will then be contracted by UNOPS to undertake the construction of more than 1000 homes in Project 16/6 neighbourhoods. 

Learning to rebuild Haiti

The ILO and its partners have developed a unique construction programme in Creole called APRAS: Apprann Pou Rebati Ayiti Solid (Learning to Rebuild Haiti Stronger).

"We’re going to rebuild people", Léon Ronsard St-Cyr
Interview with the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs on the needs of Haïtian people (June 2012)
APRAS training manuals are primarily illustrative, using clear images and colours to explain each step of the construction process.

In addition to modules on masonry, carpentry, and metalwork, the training materials include topics such as occupational health and safety, operational plan and design, business development and construction site management. The curriculum also emphasises the need to use quality construction materials. The absence of such material is often cited as the number one reason for such high loss of life in the earthquake.

The five-week training courses take place on construction sites. Once they have completed the course and passed an exam, the participants receive a diploma certified by the Ministry of Public Works and the National Institute for Vocational Training.

“One of ILO’s objectives in this project is to build the foundation of a national vocational training system reform. Such a recognition and validation of skills not only helps workers have a better access to the labour market, it also gives them a sense of dignity,” explains Julien Magnat, Chief Technical Advisor for Project 16/6.

The experience gained through Project 16/6 will also help in the implementation of the G20 Training Strategy for Haiti. In April 2012, the Government of Haiti submitted an official letter to the Director-General of the ILO, requesting that Haiti become the pilot country for this training strategy in the Americas.

By Amy Rhoades
Journalist and skills specialist