Fullah Musa Conteh, a Human Resources professional engages young people
In the last seven weeks hundreds of Sierra Leoneans have passed through the gates of the only National Ebola Response Recruitment Drive (N.E.R.R.D). They’ve had their temperature taken, hands washed in chlorinated water and sat in neatly spaced seats hopeful about this ‘opportunity’ – an opportunity to learn, to perhaps earn a stipend or more importantly, secure work during a very insecure time in Sierra Leone.
Foday Kamara, a 26 year old whose university education had to be put on hold due the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone was one of those hopefuls. Foday’s disability is clear; he is without a right hand, an amputee due to the war, yet his strength and faith are evident. Despite what many would consider a major challenge for an amputee during an Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, he wanted to be productive even though finding work may seem a slim to none chance. However, when Foday walked through the N.E.R.R.D’s gates he was adamant about being proactive. Foday was a young boy during the war and losing his hand was beyond his control, this time around in what seems like another war in Sierra Leone, Foday chooses to be active and passionate about contributing efforts towards combating Ebola. Through N.E.R.R.D’s recruiting process; he was met by people who believed in his potential and ability to not only receive valuable training but to also find work. Today Foday works with a group of German doctors as a stock take officer, his infectious smile pierces, it reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit, better yet, it reminds us that it takes thorough and compassionate systems to recognize talent and enable it.
The National Ebola Response Recruitment Drive is a recruitment program led by Fullah Musu Conteh, a Human Resources professional, a critical skill set for a country like Sierra Leone that has high unemployment rates. Having occupied senior HR management roles in Europe, the Middle East and now in her home country, Fullah Musu is not only incredibly experienced and confident about what she brings to the table – she is also deliberate in her vision to seek, develop, and bring out the best in people with one simple goal in mind – to match individual skill sets with the right work place. In that matching process, she helps other Sierra Leoneans acquire meaningful employment. N.E.R.R.D is a program born out of DFID’s vision to rapidly train Sierra Leoneans as hygienists and clinicians in the areas of Infection Prevention Control practices and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to place qualified applicants in Ebola Treatment Centers (ETC’s) across the country. This requires a rigorous process of quality assurance in the context of the current Ebola epidemic. In the last seven weeks, Fullah Musu and the N.E.R.R.D team have successfully recruited and placed over 1000 applicants at the Ebola training academy. N.E.R.R.D has placed 27 clinicians with IRC, 29 with GOAL and recruited 7 doctors for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as trainers.
One of N.E.R.R.D’s other successful applicants is the young Dr. David Davies who now works for IOM as a trainer on Infection Prevention and Control practices for national and international doctors. Dr. Davies was wrapping up his two-year medical internship when he volunteered to work with the late Dr. Khan in Kenema. Within a couple of months into his internship, Ebola broke out in Sierra Leone and his mentor, Dr. Khan died shortly after. For Davies, having had first hand experience on how the lack of preparedness costs lives, he takes his job seriously. He knows how pivotal proper training on infection prevention and control for frontline workers is in Sierra Leone. It is through N.E.R.R.D that he was able to find a placement that makes him feel like a hero everyday. Davies says he wants to use his own experience to help other doctors and clinicians become thoroughly prepared to stay safe in the process of saving lives.
Dr. Davies, Foday Kamara and countless others are gems found through N.E.R.R.D. Impressed with the quality of applicants vetted through N.E.R.R.D, DFID now requires that all hygienists and clinicians go through N.E.R.R.D in order to be trained with the potential of job placement when and where available.
For Fullah Musu N.E.R.R.D is not only a recruitment process for potential job placement, it is also very much about the humans she meets every day. She meets teachers who come through N.E.R.R.D’s gates and say, “ I am educated, I am not working, but I don’t mind being a hygienist. I want to contribute to the fight against Ebola, I want to give back”. This is what drives her; the Sierra Leoneans she meets and their enthusiasm to be active agents in the fight against Ebola. The biggest challenge she states is “the selection process at N.E.R.R.D is very thorough and not everyone goes through, having to communicate that to unsuccessful applicants can be emotionally draining. I tell them the truth though, I make it clear that N.E.R.R.D is recruitment for training with the possibility for a job, but N.E.R.R.D is not recruitment for a guaranteed job”. Being transparent with all applicants is paramount at N.E.R.R.D, and when they do place successful applicants, it makes their job all the more rewarding.
NERRD employs a strict selection process, for example the scored criteria for Hygienists are: Behavioural Fit; Background, Motivation and Attitude; Qualifications - end of primary school, Job-Related Skills and Role Awareness. Candidates are scored against each criteria, scoring above 25 out of 50 points ensures they are called for the training.
Fullah Musu is proud of the sheer volume and quality of applicants that they have been able to acquire thus far, more importantly, she emphasizes “it is not just about getting the best people for possible placement that makes this rewarding, it is knowing that the training offers good knowledge about Ebola prevention, and when an applicant goes through the training, they can transfer this knowledge to their own lives, take it to their families, share it in their communities”.
N.E.R.R.D is not only a response to a human resource problem in Sierra Leone, it is also very much about human connection, information exchange – offering crucial support to strengthen the health sector’s service delivery for all Sierra Leoneans during this Ebola outbreak.