For effective vocational training, link to demand is essential
Whereas technical and vocational education is often seen as the last resort for school drop-outs, Rwanda is promoting it as a fully-fledged preparation to professional life. The approach starts to pay off.
Speaking during a recent international symposium technical and vocational education and training (TVET), the director general of the Rwanda Workforce Development Authority (WDA),
Albert Nsengiyumva, TVET systems are particularly well adapted to help achieve the government’s development goals.
“A four-year intervention program is currently being implemented which aims at facilitating the access to a system of qualitative vocational training adapted to the labor market. A lot of new initiatives like the development of TVET strategies on sector basis or the promotion of gender equity are set up to give people access to income-generating opportunities,” Nsengiyumva noted.
Education Minister Charles Muligande also stressed the importance of TVET in poverty alleviation. Demand-driven TVET, he said, creates a big pool of qualified labor force adapted to the needs of the market.
“In 2008 the government came up with a policy that looked at TVET as a system to create jobs. Often, TVET is seen as mainly as training for children who did not pursue general education or who dropped out of school, yet we believe that TVET is a worthy preparation for life. In addition, if it meets the needs of the private sector, it strongly contributes to the society as a whole. Therefore, the government of Rwanda is committed to further improve the TVET system,” Muligande explained.
The link between TVET and the needs of businesses is indeed essential, confirmed Marilyn Comrie, the CEO of the UK-based LeaderGen, a human capacity building consultancy that specializes in promoting women entrepreneurship. According to her, a dynamic economy needs an equally dynamic skills system to help businesses survive, which is why TVET should be demand-driven, flexible and able to respond quickly to the labor market.
“Vocational training has long been seen as an inferior, the preserve of those who are not academically bright; but it is still a consistent source of competitive advantages. In the UK we are trying to maximize how it can be more radical, reinventive, rewarding, robust, provide a rapid-response and a real-return structure, and I believe that every country should look at all those aspects,” Comrier said.
The best way to ensure that supply meets demand, according to Richard Walther, an international consultant expert who works with ADEA (Association pour le Development de l’Education Africaine / Association for the Development of African Education), is to develop TVET strategies on sector basis with the input from stakeholders.
“Governments need to allocate more funding to the development and implementation of TVET strategies via training institutions. There is also a need to introduce mechanisms for stakeholders to participate in the development and implementation process and private sector involvement to engage the trainees in the process,” Walther explained.
The fact that a weak TVET system is indeed a big challenge for private entrepreneurs, was confinrmed by Robert Bayigamba, the chairman of the Private Sector Federation, who argued that there should be a consolidated network that links TVET and the private sub-sectors to utilize the potential of a qualified workforce.
“Enterprises needs qualified and young people to meet their demands. We are committed to the promotion of small and medium enterprises, and since the establishment of the new TVET system almost 5000 jobs have been created, and we look forward to help more TVET graduates on their way,” Bayigamba noted.
The good news is that, according to WDA boss Albert Nsengiyumva, the TVET program is getting at cruising speed. “We are now getting at the point where there will be intensified output thanks to involvement of private companies in the training institutions, alternative funding mechanisms, encouraging of skills upgrading and adoption of ICT in our training centers to facilitate training of trainers, implementing e-learning and distance learning,” Nsengiyumva remarked.
And there is no doubt that effective TVET will impact positively on Rwandan society, according to Ivo Goemans, the ambassador of Belgium, whose development agency BTC is a strong financial and technical partner to the government in the development of TVET.
“Education is a key element for economic development in any country, so as long as we pay much attention to it and enforce TVET alongside general education, we will undoubtedly achieve progress,” Goemans explained. “So we will continue to put efforts in creating job and career opportunities especially for young people, as one way to support the realization of Vision 2020 and the EDPRS.”