For the fifth year in a row Co-valent, the training fund for the chemicals, plastics and life sciences sectors, is supporting projects in the South. Co-valent is managed by the unions and by Essenscia as the employers’ federation. Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs acts on behalf of Essenscia, partly thanks to the intermediary role the former HR director Leo Scheers played. “A covalent bond is a firm bond between atoms”, he starts off enthusiastically. As former HR director at BASF and with his PhD in science, he should know.
But Co-valent is also the name of the training fund for the chemicals, plastics and life sciences sectors. The fund was originally established by Essenscia and unions in the sector to finance training. “Large companies can train their staff themselves, but that was not so for SMEs”, explains Leo Scheers. So companies now pay over a limited percentage of their wage bill to Co-valent every year, and that buys every company the right to training credits.
A few years ago the unions put forward the idea at the joint committee, which BASF HR director Leo Scheers was still part of at the time, to spend part of that training fund on international solidarity. Both the Socialist union and the Christian union have their own NGOs that support projects in the South: ‘World Solidarity’ for the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (ACV) and the ‘Fund for Development Cooperation’ (FOS) for the socialist movement.
Choosing Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs
In 2011 Leo Scheers retired and joined up as a volunteer at Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs where he immediately adopted a management role. “I was happy with my life, what I’d achieved and received, and I wanted to give something back”, says Leo. “I grew up in Congo and also worked in India and Pakistan. I had an extensive network I wanted to keep active,” is how he explains his decision. When the idea to support Co-valent NGO projects was given more detail, it was clear to Leo Scheers that Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs would make the perfect third partner together with the unions to represent employers in the sector.
“Education and training are part of the Co-valent set-up”, says Leo Scheers, who hopes that other business federations will follow the lead of the chemicals sector and Co-valent.
Since 2013 the three partners, FOS, World Solidarity and Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs have jointly made an annual submission to Co-valent to obtain financing for their projects. Each partner chooses its own projects, but they must fall within one of the five sectors that align with the activities of the chemicals sector: healthcare, agriculture, water management, education and training, and food security.
"Our sector, for example, manufactures fertilizers for the agricultural industry and contributes to food security in that way. There is a logical connection between the pharmaceutical industry and health. Our companies are active in the field of water purification. “And education and training is part of the Co-valent set-up”, says Leo Scheers, who hopes that other business federations will follow the lead of the chemicals sector and Co-valent.
Among other projects, Co-valent has in the past supported a Protos water project in Ecuador and a farming project of SOS Faim in Mali, two projects where training played an important role. A VIA Don Bosco project joined the fold in Tanzania in 2017.
Frieda Van Wijck
(Sector) federations that also want to demonstrate solidarity with the South can contact Anne-Lise Passelecq at Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs on 016 32 1064.