Experiencies: Dual education for masons

Educación dual

Dual education has received publicity lately. Maybe it is because the countries where this education system has been entrenched for centuries are the countries with high standards of quality in workmanship and at the same time relatively low unemployment rates among youngsters. Manly in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, dual education is the norm. Only some 30% of young Swiss go directly to University, about 70% learn a trade through the official “apprenticeship programs”. Dual education are 2 to 4-year courses, depending on the exigencies of the trade. While car mechanics and architectural draftsmen have to study 4 years, for sales personnel it is only 2. Masons, as most construction trades, have to pass a 3-year course.

The key to this system is, that for most of the week they are working under real-life conditions, learn to perform a job and receive a modest salary. But there is also a part schooling, usually one day per week, where the theoretical base for the trade are taught. This enables the students to prepare themselves in a holistic way, after they pass the final practical end theoretical exams they are skilled to enter the job market, equipped with their respective diploma and a good basic knowledge. Actually, many of them later upgrade their knowledge at specialized trade schools, which allows them to train apprentices themselves, or at technical universities. This is a well established system that benefits small entrepreneurs as well as large firms, thus they have a constant stream of well prepared young administrators, bookkeepers, mechanics, carpenters and so on.

It is not easy to transform this system into societies where there is little appreciation for skilled tradesmen. In most countries all education goes through schooling, and the trades are looked down on. Most entrepreneurs do not have the wisdom of supporting such programs, they are not aware of the middle- and longterm benefits. Masons, car mechanics and many others in the informal market usually learn oEn the job, through trial and error. This is extremely costly to the society, incorrect use of materials weaken the constructions and often make them more expensive or less efficient. It is the house-owner (and the car-owners) who pay for the errors.

In 2005, SofoNic has started a dual education program for masons in Nicaragua, using its house-building programs as a base. Teaming up with the local technical school in Jinotepe they are graduating about ten masons every year since. Most f them have found jobs in construction or have started a business on their own. SofoNic has contracted several of them as master masons in the reconstruction programs in Haiti.

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Kathryn Pozak
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