Symbion Power, LLC (Washington, D.C., U.S.), in partnership with Northwest Lineman College (Meridian, Idaho, U.S.) and AREVA T&D (Paris, France), is opening a training school in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Symbion Power Center training school was created to help develop a skilled local workforce capable of constructing and installing an electrical power infrastructure. Symbion Power is an engineering, procurement and construction company that specializes in developing complex electrical infrastructure power projects in regions of the world where conflict and instability are major impediments to progress.

Over the last few years, Symbion has been building extensive systems in partnership with local companies throughout Iraq. In Iraq, as well as other locales, Symbion has developed a unique approach to meet labor needs. It identifies local firms and people who have the basic skills to handle the work and then provides additional training. While Symbion was able to identify skilled local individuals and companies in Iraq, in Afghanistan there is a tremendous shortage of skilled labor. And, as in Iraq, security conditions in Afghanistan make it impossible to use expatriate personnel in some areas of the country.

Symbion approached Northwest Lineman College to assist in the effort. Northwest Lineman College, with campuses in California and Idaho, provides power-delivery training to more than 2000 line workers annually in the United States and abroad. It has created a unique curriculum for the Afghan trainees to address the specific skills that will be necessary to construct, maintain and operate the new power-delivery system in Afghanistan.

Symbion has identified Afghans from across the country who will become trainees at the Symbion Power Center. The program will provide a secure and enriching environment, teach basic power-system work skills and encourage longer-term, more-sophisticated training and development as the country's power system grows.

AREVA T&D, which has worked extensively in emerging countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa to build power networks, will participate in the Afghanistan project with Symbion. AREVA T&D, which worked on several projects with Symbion in Iraq, will provide substation equipment for training purposes and will assist with specialized training in Afghanistan and Europe on the installation and maintenance of substations.

Symbion is covering all costs associated with the project, including construction of the school facility in Kabul. The building is currently being renovated and the area for the towers de-mined. In addition to its new training school, Symbion will work with World Monitors, a consulting group geared toward establishing human-rights standards across the globe, to research and create guidelines and a code of conduct for the construction industry in Afghanistan. Symbion will implement these standards and set the bar for other companies in that area and the Middle East.

Beyond training an indigenous workforce, Symbion will provide the most promising trainees with micro-loans, so they can purchase equipment and create their own electrical construction companies. The goal is to create three to four Afghan companies across the country so they can work for their own government within the next three to four years.

"Our hope is that long after these projects are completed, the people we have trained will be building and servicing electrical power projects in their own country," said Paul Hinks, Symbion Power's CEO. "Of course it is good for our business — and others — to have that infrastructure in place. But most importantly, it is good for these communities and the entire country."