Vocational education opens a world of jobs


I have done carpentry and joinery – the job I love – for the biggest part of my life but it is surprising how I ended up in that work. After my Senior Four, my family’s income went down, yet my father had my other siblings to take care. Because of that, I resorted to football, playing in the Buganda clan tournament that had recently been introduced at the time.
However, out of my own initiative, I got an idea to enroll in a technical school, so I applied and sat an interview for Electrical Installation at Kisubi Technical School in 1987 and passed.
Though I had the idea, I was not that much interested in technical things, so I continued playing football, until I coincidentally bumped into my friends with whom we applied at Kisubi and they informed me that classes had started.
The following day, I went to Kisubi, but all vacancies in the course had been occupied. The college had only one vacancy left in Carpentry and Joinery course. I rushed back home, took my mattress and belongings, and off I went to school.
I studied for two years at craft level and one year at advanced level. Though I could have continued to Diploma level, I had family responsibilities then, so I did not continue.

Working experience
Ironically after school (1990), I did not do carpentry work. I joined Jambo Constructions and got a contract with Housing Finance Bank to install Air Conditioners. I did my job well because I was getting advice from my father who was an electrician.
I, however, lost that job because I once choose football over my boss’ work and this to me, became the turning point in my career. After losing such a big contract, I knew it was time to focus on my carpentry and joinery work.
I started working with a furniture company called Kagera in Luzira, Kampala and was with them for about five months because we were not being paid, I left.
For about six years, I moved to different companies. I went to Spear Motors Group and worked at Spear Furnicle – a department that dealt in making furniture.
If you went to vocational school, it is a good thing because with me, I just had to present my papers, and I would be employed in any company. I did not lack employment at any given time.
I joined another big company at the time called Kapkwata Sawmills Ltd. At the time when the new Bank of Uganda offices were being completed, I joined Roko Construction working in the joinery section as an interior fitter.
While there, I worked on different projects; we did the interior fitting of Bank of Uganda, Uganda Development Bank, African Development Bank, X Telecom House, NSSF house, Ministry of Finance renovation (Phase two), and Sheraton Kampala Hotel (Phase one), among others.
At Roko, I learnt many things because they contracted big sites so I got exposed to learning things and skills I did not have.
From Roko, I went to Nakasongola where I worked with the army. I still left that company because the money was not enough, and it was far from my family, and returned to Roko.

Passion for the job
Since I had changed my mind from all the other things to focus on joinery, I have loved doing it for all the time I have done it.
So, from Roko Construction, I decided to start doing my own work. In 1997, I moved to Zana, built just a single roomed house in my piece of land and started working from home to date.

One of the biggest challenges for me is not having a formal contract with clients. We rely on gentleman’s agreement – because with it, you have to first finish the job, and then get paid – that is the only trust you can have. But at times, you finish the job and you are not paid.
In my observation, this generation has not helped much in skilling young people. Firstly, I studied for free while in Kisubi. Today, the tuition is high, yet students in some vocational schools study only half day and that reduces the quality of skills given.

Mindset issue
By the time I was in vocational school, the interest towards the training was minimal. Enrolling in a technical school was seen as being an academic failure. At the time, people prioritised white collar jobs. However, vocational training should be introduced even in schools – like we used to have craftwork in schools back in the days, so that from primary, a child has a vocation.
I train young people, but not many of them stay, because they have no patience and passion. Some just think this is manual work, because I do not give them machines. I want them to use their hands, feel the wood, work on it, before they can use the machines.
Today I work on contract from my permanent clients but I also make furniture for individuals on order. I work with five other people who I have been with for years now at the workshop.


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