Meter reader to engineer. Finding your purpose

The story of Chris Selemaia, who initially worked for the Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) as a meter-reader before graduating last Friday as an electrical engineer, is special.

It shows how committment, determination and sacrifice can reap long-term rewards for an individual and his or her family.

Mr Selemaia was one of 46 graduates in the apprenticeship program last Friday who passed out with certificates in carpentry, electrical engineering and plumbing. 

The apprenticeship program is one of many Government initiatives implemented by the Ministry for Commerce, Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.) with key stakeholders, and under the guidance of the Samoa Apprenticeship Council.

The article titled “Meter reader graduates as electrical engineer” published in the March 1, 2020 edition of the Sunday Samoan, gave snippets of Mr Selemaia’s four-year journey as a trainee in the apprenticeship program.

He was already employed as a meter-reader at the E.P.C., but a longing inside for more “experience and knowledge” and a desire to progress his career, compelled him to apply for the apprenticeship program.

As a successful applicant, his tuition fees were subsidised by the Government (50 per cent) and his employer (30 per cent), leaving him with just 20 per cent of the total cost to settle. It was a win-win for his career and employer.

Looking back on his four-year journey as a trainee, Mr Selemaia talked about the challenges he faced and how his family played a critical role in spurring him on.

“It was also hard on my family because I work and finish around 5pm and then attend classes at the National University of Samoa which sometimes finishes around 8pm,” he said. “My family’s never-ending support also motivated me in trying to push through with my studies. In my perspective the program is significant, because it has helped me evolve in terms of both knowledge and skills in electrical engineering.”

We hope other young men and women are inspired by Mr Selemaia’s story and note that any opportunity in formal employment – irrespective of the tasks and responsibilities – can become a stepping stone to a life-changing career path.

According to the E.P.C. Apprenticeship Coordinator, Tuaitau Douglas Tomane, their successful completion of the training program and graduation last Friday has opened the door to salary increases.

In fact any form of employment should not be taken for granted, and we say this while being cognisant of the appreciation expressed recently by a man living with a disability.

Viiga Silipa, a 24-year-old resident of Salepaga with a wife and two kids, recently undertook an internship at the Taumeasina Island Resort as part of a program run by the special education facility Nuanua o le Alofa.

The exposure to a working environment over a two-week period has elated Mr Silipa and compelled him to reapply to the resort for a permanent job.

“I would love to continue working at Taumeasina Island Resort because I can further my skills and knowledge in the workplace. I have given in my job application form so that I can continue to work there so I am currently waiting for their response,” he said.

We take off our hats to members of the private sector and civil society, who are partners with Nuanua o le Alofa in its workplace internship program. You are giving hope to citizens, who otherwise would not have exposure to such opportunities. 

And as the 2020 school year gets underway – barring a subtle interruption in the last fortnight brought on by a tropical cyclone threat – students should enter their classrooms and lecture halls with confidence knowing that there is a Plan B, when and should their academic studies go off track.

The partnership between the Government, the E.P.C. and the apprenticeship program trainee – where the three parties get to share the cost of the tuition fees – is commendable and should be replicated for other technical skills programs.

Creating employment opportunities for people living with a disability, such as the job placement internship program run by the Nuanua o le Alofa, should also get local government support and not just funding from donor partners.

Securing and maintaining employment can go a long way in empowering our people. It can make them feel accepted, give them a sense of professional satisfaction, and ultimately find a purpose in life.

Have a lovely Monday Samoa and God bless.

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