Skills Education: Focus on dual vocational education to curb youth unemployment
As part of President Yoweri Museveni's efforts to fight the high youth unemployment rate in the country, the President was recently on a tour of Kampala and Wakiso Saccos.
Where, through his presidential initiative, distributed machinery for carpentry and joinery, welding and metal fabrication, among others, to help the members of these Saccos in the production of their products. During this tour, the President was keen to acknowledge the lack of skills among the youth emphasising that equipping them with skills will go a long way in combating unemployment.
"This is a campaign I have started to awaken Ugandans so that we don't keep crying for lack of jobs," said President Museveni.
In a similar tone, Janet Mukwaya the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development during a recent review meeting called for a collaboration between the ministry of Gender and education and sports to promote skills training since many people joining the labour market do not have skills required by employers.
She lamented that: "There are many educated Ugandans who may not get jobs because of lack of hands-on skills. There is need to identify talent and nature it early to ensure our people are ready for competitive employment."
The above extracts are evidence enough that although efforts and interventions are being made to fight unemployment, there is still great need for dual vocational educational training to fill the gap of skills shortage in the country.
According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the last census results indicate that over 90% of those above 25 are unemployed. The report captures the country's non-utilised labour potential a would be productive population thus, hampering economic development.
As higher institutions of learning continue to churn out scores of graduates, it is unfortunate to note that there are no sufficient jobs to absorb the bulk of those numbers. However, job scarcity isn't the real problem; the problem lies in the lack of employable skills relevant in the labour market as well as adequacy of skills required for business set-ups.
Nevertheless, what measure can the country adopt to aptly navigate this challenge, restore hope to the many desperate youth and lead to the realisation of a middle income status for all Ugandans?
Adopting a dual system of vocational educational training is a successful model that has proven effective in circumventing youth unemployment as it aims to solve the problem of skills shortage in the labor market. Taking the example of Germany, where dual vocational training is deeply embedded and widely respected, the dual system integrates work and school-based learning to prepare apprentices for a successful transition to full-time employment.
This involves working in a company three-four days per week where one will learn the practical bits and tricks of a chosen profession while gaining work experience. And then training in a vocational school for eight to 12 hours a week learning the theoretical contents particular to your occupation.
Thereafter, students are skilled enough to find work immediately as specialists or to start their own businesses. According to federal institute for vocational and education training (VET), 52% of young Germans graduate from dual VET apprenticeships and many are offered long-term employment at the very place of apprenticeship.
Advantages of dual vocational educational training include:
Trainees receive a solid foundation for their further career development as well as acquire extensive knowledge that is required in today's professional world.
Trainees acquire practical skills and experience, gaining better prospects in the labour market. And while at it, they are paid during the training. Furthermore, the student develops under real conditions. One can gauge early enough, if he will manage the vocation.
The state and society benefit from the duality vocational training as a means to combat youth unemployment.
The system provides various opportunities for lifelong learning.
Given that students in dual education system receive high quality vocational training, they are well prepared to enter the job market at a young age thus, making an early contribution to the economy.
Also the system effectively provides huge savings for firms on recruitment costs because they have already invested in the skills of potential hires.
Therefore, it isn't a surprise that the dual vocational educational system is one of the primary reasons for Germany's continued industrial success. Likewise, the secret to China's vast supply of highly skilled manpower is nothing other than promotion of skills training and vocational talent.
Apple CEO Tim Cook in his remarks about China's vast supply of highly skilled vocational talent said, "The vocational expertise is very deep here, and I give the education system a lot of credit for continuing to push on that even when others were de-emphasising vocational. Now I think many countries in the world have woke up and said this is a key thing and we have got to correct that. China called that right from the beginning."
Dual vocational educational training has a key economic fuction in up-skilling and integrating young people into the labour market. However, there has to be a general consensus on part of government and the population that it is desirable and for the public good and not for the unfortunate individuals in society.
The inherent strengths of dual vocational training will definitely help to address the glaring gaps in the employment sector.
The writer is a Ugandan living Germany