Gaining skills at home and abroad

Learning to drive a forklift was the highpoint for many who participated in the NSCBP's programme on material handling equipment

UNMIT’s innovative National Staff Capacity Building Program (NSCBP) continues to expand its offerings, adding English-language immersion, occupational health and safety and forklift courses to the curriculum. As with the certification programme and small business course, these courses are designed to help the Mission’s Timorese staff strengthen the skills they will need after UNMIT’s planned withdrawal in December 2012.

The English-language homestay program sends national staff members to Navitas English at Charles Darwin University for two weeks of intensive English language instruction, complemented by cultural immersion as guests in the homes of Darwin families.
“I help translate Tetum-language news stories into English and share these stories with UNMIT staff,” said Jaime dos Reis, relations and liaison assistant in the public information office. “It is important for my work that my English be as good as possible."
The course is rigorous. Participants spend days in the classroom speaking, listening, reading and writing. Their work includes internet-based study, library study, watching movies and a conversation club. During their lunch breaks they speak only English with one another and with the University’s student body. And their days begin and end in the homes of their English-speaking hosts who serve them breakfast and dinner, and who include them in their day-to-day lives.
For many participants, it is the first time they have experienced western culture. Similarly, for many of the host families it is their first real contact with their neighbours a mere hours’ flight across the Timor Sea.
But it’s not all serious study. Sight-seeing, visits to cultural institutions, watching football, market visits, picnics and dining out are among the many activities the staff members have enjoyed.
Demand is high. More than 250 potential students have applied for one of the anticipated 110 slots available during the 18 sessions scheduled through the end of year, with new applicants expected in the upcoming June enrolment period.
“Initially we thought that we were only going to learn the English language, which was wrong,” says Almerio Moniz, language assistant in the serious crimes unit. “We also learned a lot about cultural, lifestyle and behavioural differences and some ways of communication from our fellow students from other nationalities.”
Closer to home, about 200 men and women have participated in two trade-focused programmes: occupational health and safety (OH&S) and material handling equipment, including forklift driving. Both programmes attract staff susceptible to health and safety risks by virtue of their current work. The course also attracted men and women who hold “desk” jobs but were interested in learning about these trade skills.
The three-day OH&S coupled theory with practical training in UNMIT’s workshops and warehouses. Topics covered included occupation-specific risks, health and safety equipment, emergency procedures, hazardous substances and accident investigation. The programme was offered in Dili as well as Bobonaro, Oecussi and Baucau districts.
In Dili, 58 people from across the country learned how to operate the equipment generally used in the warehouses of manufacturers and distributors. Participants gained the skills and knowledge required to load and unload goods and cargo, secure and protect a load, complete required documentation and licensing, legislative, regulatory and certification requirements.
The high point of the four-day program was learning to operate a forklift. For many of the participants this was the first time they had operated such a complicated piece of equipment. Training involved both forward, backward and turning the vehicle, first without, and then hauling the types of goods or cargo they can expect to encounter.

While the majority of the attendees of these two programmes were men, a few intrepid women also took the course.

“I took this course because I love logistics,” said Isabel da Costa, an assistant on MOVCON. “Gender balance means women have the same opportunities in life as men. What men can do, women can also do.”

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