When work experience means saving lives: Over 50k masks a day produced by Vocational Education grads to suppress Covid-19 in Azerbaijan

Fadile Nasibova has just recently completed her course in tailoring at the Baku State Vocational Education Centre on Tourism and Social Services and she already found a job that makes use of her skills for the greater good.

Together with twenty other graduates from the tailoring course, Fadile was very busy over the past months, operating state-of-the-art machinery to produce hundreds of thousands of masks each week to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Azerbaijan.

“It was lucky enough getting a job in these difficult times,” she says. “But it’s even better to be doing something that’s contributing to a solution. It makes me feel really useful.”

The mask-production centre in which Fadile and some 85 other employees work was set up last year at the same Vocational Education Centre where she had studied. This initiative was launched by the State Agency on Vocational Education soon after the pandemic outbreak and supported by the European Union and UNDP.

To ramp up production as quickly as possible, two cutting-edge ultrasonic mask-welding machines and one ton of raw material that were rapidly purchased with the financial support of the EU were delivered to Baku through UNDP’s international supply chains.

Beginning with 15,000 masks per day, production at the facility has quickly expanded to the capacity to produce 400,000 masks per week. Available in various colours and sizes, the masks are safe and affordable and can be purchased in local pharmacies.

The great majority of the 85 employees are either recent graduates or alumni of the Vocational Education Centre and over 50% are women.

By providing work experience and jobs to make use of the graduates valuable skills, the mask-production project helped the country to deal with the pandemic but also highlighted the growing importance of vocational education in a rapidly changing economy.

All evidence indicates that masks are an effective measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission and ultimately saving lives. But masks must be part of a comprehensive ‘Do it all!’ approach that includes physical distancing, especially avoiding crowded and unventilated settings, covering one’s sneezes and coughs and washing our hands.

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This initiative is part of the project ‘Support to the establishment of the Regional Industrial Vocational Education and Training (VET) Competence Centre in Ganja’. The project was funded by the EU and implemented by the UNDP and the State Agency on Vocational Education, with the aim to strengthen and modernise Azerbaijan’s vocational education and training system.

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