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Skills for Employment: Scaling-up Technical and Vocational Training in Africa

Skills for Employment: Scaling-up Technical and Vocational Training in Africa

Launched in July 2016, this 2-year research project aims to improve the overall quality, relevance, and inclusiveness of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to meet the entrepreneurial needs of countries in East and Southern Africa, thereby enhancing the employability of the young TVET graduates. TVET centres offer practical skills and knowledge that are often absent in theory-based university classes. These include technical skills such as filming, which could be useful for a range of future job opportunities, which often require multimedia skills. Led by Uganda's Makerere University with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the project seeks to:

Communication Strategies: 

With a view to capitalising on the synergies of collaborative research, the project team is engaging TVET and youth employment stakeholders in Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, including the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government ministries and agencies, and development partners such as SNV Netherlands, the African Development Bank, and the Canadian High Commission. The project is working to enhance knowledge, foster policy dialogue, and lead governments to improve their ability to implement reforms in skills development and employment.

The project kicked off with a methodology/inception workshop, followed by a stakeholder consultative workshop designed to firm up the project objectives, secure stakeholder buy-in, and identify existing youth employment initiatives with a view to understanding their operations in terms of geographical coverage, groups being reached, benefit packages, and programme design.

After the first 6 months of the project, the team started a phase that concentrated mainly on the main field survey, data analysis, and write-up of the papers, including "Perceptions of Secondary School Students towards Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Uganda", "Perceptions of TVET Students towards the Quality of TVET Education in Uganda", and "Employer Perception of TVET Graduate competence: Case of Uganda". In order to arouse stakeholder by-in of the project's main findings and recommendations, the project team held a stakeholder preliminary findings workshop on August 10 2017. Among the findings: Peer attitude was significantly and negatively related to student choices towards enrolling in TVET, and a parent/caregiver's attitude toward TVET significantly and positively influences student choices towards TVET.

Next, a regional dissemination workshop was held in Nairobi, Kenya, May 29-30 2018, with the overall theme of "Current Research in TVET and How to Take it to Action". In November and December 2018, the project team plans to host national dissemination workshops in Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia, during which they expect to present final project results and policy briefs. In brief, selected policy recommendations on how to make TVET training more practical and dynamic in order to enhance faster and efficient employment creation for the youth include: Trainers should endeavour to focus more on hands-on training to the extent that more time is spent in the lab/workshop than in class; up-to-date equipment with technology matching those found in the marketplace should be availed to the TVET institutions, as TVET student perception about quality of TVET training is greatly determined by state of training equipment; it is incumbent upon government to adopt a uniform career guidance policy framework featuring career guidance that takes place not only within school premises but that also attempts to bring parents on board; and entrepreneurs must be engaged in the entire TVET institutional framework - from policy to training and competence testing.

In addition to the workshops, the results will be disseminated through working papers and publication of final results in journals such as Development Policy Review.

Alongside improvements within the TVET system that are detailed within the research papers, the project team contends that there is a need to increase awareness and the credibility of this type of education. Early in 2017, the principal researcher for the Kenyan arm of the project, in the country's Permanent Working Group (PWG) on TVET, was part of an effort to convene the "Hands on the Future National TVET Conference" and the Kenya Skills Show as part of an effort to rebrand TVET - a recommendation from the IDRC-supported research. Prominent private sector employers such as Coca-Cola and Toyota Kenya participated as exhibitors in the Kenya Skills Show, which attracted more than 3,000 people, many of them parents and young men and women who were potential students. Some researchers from institutions participating in the IDRC-supported TVET project also attended the show to share experiences and assess developments in Kenya. The research team from Lilongwe University, for example, is exploring the possibility of hosting a similar skills show to improve the image of TVET and market this path to young audiences in Malawi.

Development Issues: 

Youth, Economic Development

Key Points: 

According to IDRC, young people between 15 and 25 represent more than 60% of Africa's total population, and they account for 45% of the total labour force. Unlike other developing regions, sub-Saharan Africa's population is becoming younger due to continued high fertility rates. Many young people have little or no skills. They are excluded from productive economic and social life. Those with an education often have skills that do not match current demand in the labour market, where educational and skill requirements are increasing.

Youth unemployment stands at 10.9% in sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, youth unemployment was estimated at 18.2% as of 2015 with youth female and male employment rate estimated at 22.4% and 14% respectively. More specifically, as of 2015, the unemployment rate among youth who had no education; not completed primary education; completed primary education; completed secondary education; completed vocational and tertiary education was estimated to be 17.7%; 7.4%; 14.9%; 16.2%; 17.7%; 14.2%; and 14.8% respectively (Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2016).

Research carried out in Zimbabwe as part of this IDRC-supported project found that only 54% of those surveyed said they had knowledge of TVET. Those researchers contend that high school students are hungry for information about the TVET sector and are insufficiently advised of the number of programmes that are available through TVET providers; nor are they familiar with updated information about the labour market.

TVET focuses on technologies and sciences, but also covers practical skills, attitudes, and knowledge of specific occupations. To make the most of current resources, relevant government and public stakeholders are focusing on incorporating new technologies, soft skills training, and career guidance components to improve the overall quality of training of TVET. The hope is that quality assurance of TVET through accreditation processes for both public and private institutions, which are currently underway, will also increase the quality and employability of graduates. Charles Ondieki, chairman of the TVET Curriculum Development Assessment and Certification Council in Kenya, has been one of the early advocates for the revitalisation of TVET. He explains that TVET in Kenya has moved from a colonial curriculum to one that actively engages local expertise and follows a competency-based curriculum and assessment model that encourages students to complete course targets at their own pace. Once students are ready to take their exams, training institutions evaluate them on an individual basis.

According to IDRC, university students have remarked that enrolling in TVET has become more common for them in recent years. The skills they learn in TVET complement their university courses, and can often be completed during the 6-month break between the first and second year of university studies. These skills are also encouraging university students to move beyond traditional formal sector jobs, which are often limited in supply. Such awareness of the value of TVET programmes is considered to be vital for strengthening the system to ensure it meets the needs of changing African labour markets.

However, as unearthed by the IDRC-supported research, there is evidence to suggest that there are problems: inefficiencies within TVET institutions, limited capacity to provide high-quality training, funding constraints, and barriers to access for women. Regarding the latter, the project is focusing on efforts to increase enrolment among women in TVET programmes, which will hopefully lead to greater employability, productivity, and income among female graduates. One of the policy recommendations from the Malawi project team involves - in keeping with the Malawi gender policy, which provides for reduction in gender disparities in education and labour force participation - the offering of organised and collaborated career guidance and counselling, as well as the introduction of role models for women in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Partner Text: 

Makerere University with IDRC funding

Contacts (user reference): 

Emails from Liane Cerminara to The Communication Initiative on October 17 2018 and October 22 2018; and IDRC website; IDRC website, May 29 2018; "BTVET reform incompleteness hurting holistic skills development", by Okumu Mike Ibrahim, New Vision, October 3 2018; and "Empower the youth", by Okumu Mike Ibrahim, New Vision, August 24 2017 - all accessed on October 17 2018. Image credit: IDRC

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