Toyota Recruits Young Offenders' Engineering Skills

Toyota Land Cruiser
Prison workshop prepares Land Cruiser for desert duties

An outreach organisation in the West African state of Mali is to benefit from a replacement Toyota Land Cruiser, prepared by members of Toyota’s mechanics apprenticeship course at Aylesbury Young Offenders Institution. The team of young men is hard at work preparing a Land Cruiser Colorado 3.0-litre D-4D ready for the harsh conditions it will be working in when it is delivered to its new owners early next year.

The I Ni Che project (the phrase for "thank you" in the Bambara language) was launched by the Mali Development Group, a UK-based charity that is working in partnership with Jeunesse et Dévéloppement, a Malian non-governmental organisation that tackles health, education, women’s issues and the plight of street children. Toyota (GB) PLC is supporting the initiative by sourcing the vehicle, contributing to the purchase cost and, together with the Governor David Kennedy of HM Prison Service, helping involve the apprentices at Aylesbury.

The Land Cruiser will replace another Toyota that has reached the end of its service life. It will provide tough, reliable transport for the Jeunesse et Dévéloppement team, particularly for its journeys to and from the remote Manankoro region near the southern border with Ivory Coast, a key centre for its community work. As in many other harsh locations around the world, Toyotas are popular vehicles in Mali, ensuring a ready supply of spare parts and technical know-how for servicing and repairs.

To help improve local knowledge of vehicle mechanics, the party delivering the Land Cruiser to its new owners will include Shaun Price who lectures on the prison course. Once in Mali, he will spend two days giving practical maintenance tuition.

To ready the pre-owned Land Cruiser for its new role, the Aylesbury apprentices are giving it a full mechanical overhaul and fitting a number of new components and specialised accessories that will help it cope with local conditions.

These include a raised air intake and transmission breather kit that help prevent dust and sand getting into the drivetrain; an expedition-style roof rack; additional fuel cans, cargo retaining straps; high-mounted driving lights; and an essential "Sahara" protection bar for the front of the car.

Linda King, project organiser for the Mali Development Group, said: "Our goal to replace the Land Cruiser for our partners in Mali has been realised with a fantastic vehicle thanks to the amazing support we've had from Toyota and from the staff and prisoners in the Toyota workshop at Aylesbury Young Offenders Institution.

"Strong, reliable transport is a vital element in the important work being done in Mali, where conditions can be extreme. The new Land Cruiser will provide an ideal solution."

The motor vehicle training facility was established at Aylesbury YOI in 1998, giving prisoners the opportunity to work towards a Level 3 Technical Certificate accredited by the Institute of The Motor Industry. Operating to the same standards as Toyota’s other UK training centres, the 18-month course accommodates 36 inmates in three groups and has so far trained 72 vehicle technicians. Of these, 16 have subsequently been released and found related employment. As well as giving the apprentices valuable practical abilities, it also helps with their literacy, numeracy and teamwork skills.

Published : 23/11/04 Author : Melanie Carter

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