Ascending Academy has certifications that are gaining recognition and quickly becoming a respected benchmark.

Andrew SCHNITZER DA SILVA Co-founder and Board Member ASCENDING

What has set us apart in the past is our ability to succeed in fields typically dominated by international players.

Filipe FRANCISCO Executive Director ASCENDING

In-demand industry skills for Mozambique

June 13, 2024

Andrew Schnitzer da Silva, co-founder and board member of Ascending, and Filipe Francisco, the company’s executive director, talk to The Energy Year about developing a skilled workforce for Mozambique’s booming extractive industries and the company’s plans to grow in Africa. Ascending is a workforce management company specialising in the mining, oil and gas, and maritime sectors.

How has Ascending evolved in recent years?
Andrew SCHNITZER DA SILVA: Our company’s growth hasn’t followed a typical path. We have a unique way of working with clients that is based on the establishment of mutual trust. In developing markets, it is usually the case that the name of your company is less important than the name of the person who is representing it. This emphasis on personal trust is what has allowed us to gradually expand beyond our initial focus on workforce management.
For instance, in 2019, a client for whom we were managing a crew for a ship asked us to manage the vessel itself. We had no prior experience in ship management, but they trusted us and we took on the challenge. This leap of faith on both sides allowed us to launch our maritime services business, which nowadays is one of our biggest points of pride.
Our trajectory is full of similar examples. On a project in a remote location, we ran into access issues and we arranged for transportation to address them, leading to the birth of our transportation business. Then catering needs arose, and we set up a catering service.
Clients approach us with new needs and we evolve to meet them. In Angola, we’re now managing entire fleets of cars for clients, not just drivers. Through it all, our focus has remained on our clients’ requirements and the wellbeing of their workers, ultimately improving the efficiency of their organisations and the lives of their employees.

What are some recent developments in your maritime services business?
AS: Our marine business is still in the development phase. It hasn’t reached the same level of recognition as our training arm, for example, which is a well-known name in Mozambique’s energy industry. In the same way that we built a strong reputation in workforce management, we will build it in marine services.
Filipe FRANCISCO: We’re a newcomer in marine services in Angola and Mozambique and one of just a handful of vessel operators in Angola. What has set us apart in the past is our ability to succeed as a local company in fields typically dominated by international players. We’ve overcome the hurdles of certification and licensing and have maintained high standards of service to compete effectively, all the while adhering to our core values of rigour, co-operation, ethics and ambition.


Is there a good fit between the skills in demand in the market and the skills of the Mozambican workforce?
AS: Mozambique boasts numerous academies and a young population, yet companies struggle to find qualified workers. Ascending addresses this mismatch. Graduates of educational institutions often lack industry exposure and practical experience, and we can bridge the gap by preparing them for the job market at our training centres. We even train the instructors, helping them upgrade their curriculums and certifications.
FF: Large employers tend to rely on expats because they need immediate solutions. Training takes time. Planning is crucial, and we believe we can play a role in developing a skilled workforce with proper preparation, effective training, upskilling and collaboration with sector companies.
The biggest challenge, however, lies in local content laws. The government and leading companies need to collaborate on a framework that promotes the integration of young Mozambicans into the economy. While strides have been made through local content initiatives supported by the government, the private sector and non-profits, the focus needs to shift towards implementation.

How do Ascending’s training facilities develop the skills that the market demands?
AS: Ascending isn’t just about training people at centres. We aim to set the standard for workforce development in Mozambique. We currently have three training centres across the country and in the coming months, we plan to reopen our facility in Palma, which was vandalised during the insurgency. Based on what’s been happening on the ground with Eni and TotalEnergies, we are optimistic about reopening it this year and starting to provide services out of that location again.
Our commitment to quality is reflected in our dual certification by national authorities and the UK’s ECITB [Engineering Construction Industry Training Board]. We go beyond simply offering courses; our Ascending Academy has its own internal certifications that are gaining recognition and quickly becoming a respected benchmark in the market. People are increasingly seeking out workers with Ascending Academy certifications.
FF: Our ultimate goal is for the Ascending Academy certification to become the gold standard in Mozambique, surpassing even international and national certifications. People are asking about our certifications and providing positive feedback, so we’re seeing progress. The recognition is incredibly rewarding, and something we initially thought might be very hard to achieve.

What is your assessment of the market for training and Ascending’s role within it?
FF: We argue for a quality-focused approach to workforce development in Mozambique and, rather than just building more centres, we believe in supplying existing ones with ever-better equipment and qualified staff. Currently, there’s an oversupply of training compared to market demand and our strategy involves utilising existing facilities effectively.
Covid-19 presented an unexpected opportunity. The need for online training led Ascending to develop hybrid programmes that combined online and in-person learning for technical trades. They were well received and the experience reinforced our belief that engagement is what matters most. We’re moving beyond on-site training and exploring new methods based on virtual reality and online tutors to keep trainees motivated and make the learning process more meaningful.
AS: Ascending is also looking outside Mozambique’s borders. We recently had a meeting in Guyana, which has a booming energy business, and we learned that our training centres in Mozambique were being used as a benchmark. This highlights the potential of our business for international expansion. If we showcase our success stories effectively, we can attract new clients in new countries. We can leverage our expertise in Mozambique and Angola to address human resource gaps in other developing markets.

With mining investments set to grow in Mozambique, how do you see skills and employment evolving in the sector?
AS: The status of Mozambique’s mining sector is very dynamic. Vulcan, the biggest player, tapered off its operations but now seems to be ramping them up again. The sector suffers from a lack of clear information. However, we are seeing overall optimism.
Our biggest mining project is in Cabo Delgado. The area is rich in graphite, rubies, diamonds and gold, and it’s experiencing a boom. We have frequent recruitment requests from companies in the area and our workers are receiving lots of job offers from other companies that are starting their operations. The scene is certainly vibrant. We want to continue to be a part of it, which is why we’re putting resources there and in Tete to be able to be part of the development of this sector.

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