By An Executive Editor
In 2017, Isaac Mugambe founded YUfT Metal Works, to give hands-on skills to ex-convicts and those he describes as “at risk.”
Located in Kawempe-Ttula, the skilling centre brags of 17 permanent employees and over 50 ex-convicts trained over the years.
Currently, YUfT Metal Works has 10 trainees and at the end of their 6 months or 2 years respectively, they should be able to ably carry out any fabrication works.
In this Q and A, Mugambe tells us how he started YUfT Metal Works, where he is currently and what the future looks like.
Question: Starting up in 2017, what would you describe fabrication business?
Answer: The economy is not doing well and it is as well affecting us. So, now we are in a period of business survival, not making so much profit but you have to make sure that the business stays.
Question: Tell us about your choice of metal farication…
Answer: We established this as a project basically to be supporting youth ex-convicts or those at risk. So, by that time, we looked at a skill that can easily be accessed and needs little capital for someone to start up a small business. So, we opted for metal works because it is very easy for someone to clearly start up a small workshop and besides even the skilling itself gives it an advantage because for now I can say that the fabrication sector is increasing (the demand is actually increasing) and it will be there always.
Question: Again, you choice of trainees. Why ex-convicts?
Answer: I grew up in Kawempe and I have a lot of colleagues who didn’t even reach P.5 because of gangs and groups. So, I just decided, let me establish something in Kawempe such that I really support the young people. Those who could be at risk, if parents can’t afford the normal school, they can easily access the workshop and get the skill, we employ some then we see how we can still target others to do their businesses.
Question: How do you get them?
Answer: Normally, we get them through recommendations. We don’t enroll someone without a recommendation. It is either a parent, or a guardian or any concerned citizen.
Question: How many are training now?
Question: Over the years, how many would you say you have trained?
Answer: Since 2017, we have trained between 50 and 60.
Question: After training, what happens to them?
Answer: We have 17 (permanent) staff and sometimes when our trainees graduate, we recruit them as partner wielder under contracts that need much more labor. We give them the first option of recruitment.
Question: What is the training period like?
Answer: We are in partnership with a certain institution and we do DIT and UBTEB. DIT is 6 months and UBTEB goes for 2 years. For us we established a skilling project that’s 100% practical but in the formal sector we realized that probably we need a national certificate could add much value to our beneficiaries. So, besides, practicals are done 24/7. They go there to engage in their theories and have a chance to sit for the national certificate.
Question: Tell us about starting up. What was it like for you?
Answer: This started as a project. And we profiled a project with Oxfam through an organization called JAWCU. So, we received an equipment grant for actually most of the equipment. So, the only financial capital I may say we put in was to formalize the business and then to establish the workshop and pay rent, etc and this was between Shs 8 and 10 million.
Question: What is it like working with the young people?
Answer: For us we don’t find it hard because of our recruitment process. If we receive a recommendation, we assess and get to understand: Is someone first of all interested? We don’t take up anyone who is not interested. For us we give you options of life. We are giving you a skill, free of charge, and we show you what the future could hold. So, if someone is interested in skilling, then we on-board. Since we are majorly dealing with ex-convicts and those at risk, it is sometimes by our policies that we have already a strengthened security system, just in case someone has a habit. There, we can see how we can engage and prevent it. But normally still, our model is, we realized that influence is the major factor. Either someone studied with so and so, or an age mate. In other words, bad peer influence make them to get involved in crime. So, for us our model is, if it is bad peer influence, for us let’s create good peer influence on the site and that why we normally sit, share challenges, and in that way, we normally create good peers to influence behavior in others.
Question: Years in business. How have you been able to keep afloat?
Answer: Our target and investment goes to research. We would like to create a project that is dependable and creates a product that survives in the Ugandan market, but as well go across the borders of the country. When you look at the general understanding of wielding, so many people create businesses and they stay for 10 years. What differentiates our model? Probably in 5 years we would like to have a product that is attached to us. The agricultural machines that we do produce, these are things that were created some time ago. The gates, doors, are things that cannot make so much value but we want to create a product with our understanding. We would like to create a product that will have demand in Uganda, even someone who will be outside Uganda will say, let me order for that product because as of now, no one in Kenya can order for the doors and even the technology that we use. What we are focusing on is, can we do research? Make a product such that anyone in Uganda and outside can know Yuft for. That what we are focusing at now.
Question: What other products do you have?
Answer: We have construction needs. Doors and value addition machines for agricultural products among others. Last year, we started a research with an energy-dealing company. So, we created our models for solar dryers. So, the company is now completing research work on how that solar dryer will work for us to have a model of how the solar dryer works. So, for now, that one takes us to energy. In other words, we are into all kinds of wielding.
Question: What do you tell the young people?
Answer: Be focused and know what you want. The world does have anything that is holding for you. It should be you as young person to make sure that you create something for the world to hold on.
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