By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 17, 2009 - The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan praised the efforts of a construction training center here that's providing much-needed skills to local residents. Karl W. Eikenberry attended the Sept. 15 graduation of more than 100 students from the Kunar Construction Center in Shigal district here. After an intense three-month course, the students now are equipped with skills such as carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing and electrical wiring.
"In Kabul, we talk frequently about the need to deliver services and provide job opportunities that will improve the lives of the Afghan citizens," the ambassador said. "Here you are fulfilling that goal every day by the training of young men in construction, carpentry and other skills that are in very high demand.
"You're helping to rebuild not only the infrastructure of this country, but most important, its vital resource ... the human capital of Afghanistan," he added.
Eikenberry said he was impressed with the faculty, facility and training the center provides. The skills the students learn at the center will help rebuild Afghanistan, he added.
Provincial Governor Fazulla Wahidi told the graduates that they should be proud to take part in the reconstruction of their country. The local government will continue to work and coordinate with the provincial reconstruction team to improve the province, he said.
Since opening in 2008 with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the reconstruction team, about 600 students have been trained at the construction center. More than 90 percent of the students who enter the program graduate in one of the branches of learning.
The center also held a job fair with local construction contractors, who request a number of graduates from each group of study and hire them on the spot. At the fair, 179 jobs were offered to new and recent graduates.
One former student at the job fair said his life has improved since graduating from the center.
"Life is very good ... I'm very happy and hope to do more work in the future. I'm happy for the [construction center] teachers and for the help from the [reconstruction team]," he said.
(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves in the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)