New skills for aluminium carpenters

Upskilling and Reskilling
The master craftsmen of Cotonou, Bohicon and Parakou benefit from modular training sessions which aim at strengthening their technical capacity so that they can better supervise their trainees in the workshops. It also helps them to improve the quality of their services. In response to a request from the Professional Organizations of Craftsmen, Swisscontact ensures the financing of their needs in professional development, in production techniques and business management.
Victorin Avohou in his workshop in Bohicon, central Bénin

Victorin Avohou is an aluminum carpenter who lives with his family in Bohicon in central Benin. In 2019 and 2020, he enhanced his technical and managerial capacity thanks to the Capacity Building for Master Aluminum Carpenters project funded by the Swiss foundation "Stiftung für praktische Berufsbildung" and implemented by Swisscontact. Since then, he has been benefitting from this know-how in an open and highly competitive market.

Due to financial constraints and the death of his father, Victorin could not pursue his studies in Bohicon after completion of junior secondary school. He returned to his home village to work as a farmer and labourer. Being a very positive person, he managed to get a job in Bohicon in a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) where he worked for 3 years as a driver to make up his apprenticeship fees. "I chose aluminum carpentry because it has become very popular with the urbanisation of cities and the beauty of the buildings' cladding has always fascinated me," he explains.

Prior to learning the technical skills in a workshop, Victorin decided to acquire some initial work experience on construction sites. With the experience he gained, he then enrolled in a formal apprenticeship in a workshop. By sheer diligence, curiosity and commitment, he graduated in 2014.

With his determination to succeed, he created in 2015 his own company "Hosanna Alu"; he then joined the Association of Glaziers of Bohicon. The training sessions he received focused on business management and on techniques for photo framing, bay windows and shelves. "I appreciated the follow-up by the project team on the application of the knowledge acquired three months after the training," says Victorin.

Victorin Avohou and his apprentices during a glass/pane measuring process

Turning point

Victorin cheerfully says:

"Before, I was working in an archaic way and was losing a lot of aluminum. I also thought I knew everything there was to know, but during the training I discovered things I could not have imagined. For example, I found that no one had the skills to make the curtain wall in Bohicon. People had to call upon the workforce from Cotonou. With the mastery of the calculation of materials and with my newly acquired technical skills, I am able to do it at a reduced cost by limiting the losses in aluminium. I display a satisfactory mastery of this skill by demonstrating a remarkable quality and speed of execution".

Victorin's annual revenue increased by over 12% in 2020. This is due to the tools made available on business management. "I no longer mix up personal resources with business resources. I no longer spend without planning. I'm lucky enough to not pay rent and to have a car, so I save my profits for new investments," he proudly asserts.

Victorin is confident that in 2021, he will be able to perform better thanks to these newly acquired skills and also thanks to the fact that Bohicon is now in the middle of a construction project and is in dire need of skilled labour. The application of these new techniques is a major change for more suitable and better quality work in order to earn more money. Other people are similarly realizing this change. "I passed on new techniques as well as the keys to a better management of business. But Victorin was able to seize this opportunity by using these techniques on a regular base and by looking for solutions to his problems," says his trainer.

For Victorin Avohou, acquiring these new skills will help improve the lives of his family and peers. "My biggest dream is to develop my business and work on its expansion for the well-being of my children. Within 5 years, I also plan to create a sawing and material sales centre to give work to all those who could not open their workshop" he concludes.

Victorin Avohou (on the left) at the removable structure partition and the ramp both built during the training