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December 16, 2014 by 

A keynote Address at the Commonwealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA) Conference on “Competency Based Education and Green Skills for Work and Life in Post 2015 Africa”, 9th December 2014, Imperial Resort Hotel, Entebbe, Uganda.

By Professor Venansius Baryamureeba, Chairperson, Makerere University Business School Council – Chairperson, Uganda Vice Chancellor’s Forum – Chairperson, Uganda Business & Technical Examinations Board – Chairperson, COMESA Innovation Council – Vice Chancellor, Uganda Technology And Management University.

  1. Introduction

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and skills for the world of work. Throughout the course of history, various terms have been used to describe elements of the field that are now conceived as comprising TVET. These include: Apprenticeship Training, Vocational Education, Technical Education, Technical-Vocational Education (TVE), Occupational Education (OE),Vocational Education and Training (VET), Professional and Vocational Education (PVE), Career and Technical Education (CTE), Workforce Education (WE),Workplace Education (WE), etc. Several of these terms are commonly used in specific geographic areas.

In many countries, TVET is often considered as second last education compared to the mainstream academic branch,but TVET is increasingly seen as the master key to poverty alleviation and social cohesion and a chance for countries to jump on the bandwagon of development and globalization. In China for example, where skilled laborers represent the backbone of the current economic expansion, at least one third ofall secondary school students are enrolled in vocational schools.

But at the other end of the spectrum,many nations are still struggling to create those indispensable bridges between education and the world of work. For many countries like China, TVET is not an option; it’s a necessity. With primary school leavers on the rise throughout the world, the need to expand further learning opportunities is urgent. Yet, many secondary school systems are unable to absorb these large numbers and jobs are even harder to come by.  Young people need skills that are flexible and relevant to the demands of a constantly evolving, globalized labour market.

In order to ensure quality in TVET, responsible national authorities should establish criteria and standards, subject to periodic review and evaluation, undertake benchmarking from other countries, applying to all aspects of technical and vocational education, including:

  1. a) All forms of recognition of achievement and consequent qualification;
  1. b) Staff qualifications;
  1. c) Ratios of teaching and training staff to learners;
  1. d) The quality of curricula and teaching materials;
  1. e) Safety precautions for all learning and training environments; and
  1. f) Physical facilities, buildings, libraries, laboratories, workshop layouts, quality and type of equipment.

For example in regard to safety precautions a welder, rigger, operator, driver, scaffolder, and electrician must have Helmet, coverall, safety boots, safety glasses, high visibility vest and gloves while at work or in a workshop.

To meet international training standards, programmes need to fully reflect on modern industry practices, have a strong focus on competency-based training methods and provide students with robust practical experience.

For purposes of this keynote address we shall focus on exploitation of technological advancement in promoting TVET; and the informal sector; balancing academic grades and skills in competency based education and training; promoting vocational education for regional economic integration; and the role of technical and vocational education to the oil and gas industry in East Africa.

  1. Exploitation of Technological Advancement in Promoting TVET

The world of work has changed dramatically over the past decade. It has become mobile and technologically complex, demanding highly sophisticated and transferable work skills in an increasingly globalized world. Thus, this calls for more efficient, effective and reliable methods of skills enhancement and transfer through innovative technologies.

E-learning technologies have indeed changed the roles of teachers, instructors, trainers and learners.  E-learning Technologies have changed countries approach to developing digital literacy. The use of e-learning technologies has enhanced and improved management, learning programmes, assessment and overall quality and inclusiveness of education. Technology is being used to improve management tools, the quality of programmes and institutions, facilitated assessment and certification and developed pre-work competence and skills. Technology is enabling lifelong learning, provision of ubiquitous education and undertaking massive training.

Technology is helping bridge the gap in regard to staff, teaching materials, libraries and laboratories through promotion of e-learning. E-libraries and Internet based laboratories are on the rise and as a result students can perform practicals and access library resources online.  E-tutoring or e-instructionis also on the rise to address lack of qualified tutors/instructors in certain localities. There is also increase in free and open resources developed by experts for skill enhancement to life long learners. However, there is lack of localized content suitable for the local people to acquire the necessary hands on skills necessary for sustainable development. This calls for immediate response from both TVET and the informal sector in generating local content that is necessary and suits the local population.

  1. TVET andthe Informal Sector

In defining the informal sector, the ILO (International Labour Organization) and OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) tend to use economic definitions, focusing onparameters like the status of employment, the level of formalisation of the business activities, and government registration. However, the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) presents the most commonly used definition for informal sector in the context of poverty reduction and development cooperation that also illustrates the wide range of employment statuses in the informal sector. “Informal employment was defined by the 17th ICLS (2003) as encompassing:(a) own-account workers and employers employed in their own informal enterprises; (b) members of informal producers’ cooperatives; (c) own-account workers producing goods exclusively for own final use by their household; (d)contributing family workers in formal or informal enterprises; and (e)employees holding informal jobs in either formal enterprises or informal enterprises or as paid domestic workers employed by households.

Some authors argue that the informal economy should be divided into two main segments: the upper tier and the lower tier, where the “upper tier has access to requirements that make it unavailable to workers in the lower tier. This upper tier comprises the competitive part, i.e. those who voluntarily choose to be informal, and thelower tier consists of individuals who cannot afford to be unemployed but do not have access to more productive employment in either the formal or the informal sector.”

TVET in the informal sector is about technical and vocational skills development in the informal sector.

  1. Balancing Academic Grades and Skills in Competency Based Education and Training

It is generally agreed that a modern and responsive TVET system needs to take into account current and expected socio-economic conditions including labor marketdemand, the needs of both the formal and informal sector in relation to employment, and the professional capacity of TVET teachers and instructors. Further, TVET must attend to the specific employment needs of both rural and urban situations and take account of belief and value systems, religions and customs, and different regional and indeed climatic variations between regions within a country or region (particularly in relation to gender and social dimensions in training and employment).

Working TVET systems are not those that are copied from other countries and pasted in another local setting. You need to develop a TVET system that is localized to the local setting and characteristics.  It is important to note that a TVET system that works well in Indonesia may not work as well in Uganda. Since each country and economic situation is different, it is important to search, identify, define,and apply what can be considered the basic principles of an effective TVET system. The top six (6) principles inherent in a successful TVET system are:

    Relevance to the labor market;

    Access for trainees;

    Quality of delivery;


    Inclusion of soft skills; and

    Funding for the system is secure and uninterrupted.

A country or regional contextualized and customized developed TVET system is best as it permits one to validate skill sets and adjust the approach of learning as it best fits the country or region. However, integrating the TVET system at both primary and secondary education levels to form comprehensive schooling may go along way in equipping the youth with the appropriate skills required for development.

In light of the above, it is important to strike a balance between academic grades and skills acquisition within the TVET sector. However, every TVET graduate must possess the minimum skills required by employers and also comply with international standards.

  1. Promoting Vocational Education for Regional Economic Integration

Countries in Southeast Asia have undertaken a number of reforms in their training and education systems;most notable of which is the ‘re-shifting’ to training and education priorities that relate to work productivity, a greater focus on providing skills and training and practical work experience to the students/youth. They have shifted the agenda to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) because Southeast Asia is in fact merely revitalizing their efforts on TVET for the region long realized the vast potential of TVET to alleviate poverty and bring national and regional economic advantage through better and gainful employment of the youth and labour force.

Now with the growing awareness of how TVET can potentially bring new skills that will be crucial in facilitating regionalization and internationalization, countries in Southeast Asia have reinforced their efforts to improve their respective TVET systems with special emphasis on improving the quality of vocational teacher education.

The East African region can borrow a leaf from this experience.But for TVET to support regional integration there is need to:

    Improve the quality of TVET systems and establish national and regional qualification frameworks on TVET;

    Guarantee evidence-based TVET planning and adequate national financing of TVET initiatives;

    Ensure the relevance of TVET curriculum to industry needs through education agency- industry collaboration; and

    Encourage national governments to put greater focus on quality of vocational teacher training.

In the region we need to avoid the mistakes Uganda made in the past of turning TVET institutions into degree awarding institutions/ Universities.A case in point is Kyambogo University, Busitema University and Mutesa I Royal University that were created out of TVET certificate and diploma awarding institutions.  This upgrade killed mostof the programmes that were under these TVET institutions. Also in the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Manifesto 2011-2016, it promised Ugandans that Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK) would be become a degree awarding institution before 2016. If this promise is implemented, it would be another blow to the TVET sector especially the oil and gas sector.

Furthermore, TVET institutions should be Centers of Excellence accredited by national/regional and international bodies.

Specialization in vocational training is very critical and the same concept could be borrowed in the TVET system to be integrated within the region. Any institution that has been found to have specialized in a particular vocational skill, should be allowed to develop content and assessment procedures for the rest of other institutions running the same course. This will allow easy development of e-content that can easily be shared through innovative technologies. Therefore tapping into e-learning for regional integration is possible in this era to improve on how TVET is delivered.

  1. The Role of Technical and Vocational Education to the Oil and Gas Industry

The most numerous roles that are expected to be generated both directly and indirectly across the oil and gas sector are those of a vocational nature. Core trades identified are transferable to other sectors. There is need to meet international standards to be employable in the sector.  Below we give trades and the corresponding professional profiles:

In the case of Uganda, Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK) has come up with an institutional development plan (2014-2019) that lays out strategies for developing core human resources for the oil and gas sector in Uganda. Similar initiatives are taking place in the region, especially in Kenya and Tanzania. So there is need for coordination and sharing of mandate in the implementation of TVET across the region to avoid unnecessary duplication, as TVET is capital intensive.

  1. Conclusion

It is now a commonly agreed fact that:

    TVET has a high impact on the country’s productivity growth;

    TVET makes its recipients relatively secure from poverty and extends and sustains this security into retirement years;

    TVET reduces inequality, filling income gaps that would otherwise exist between the rich and the poor;

    Through the reduction of inequality and its direct effects in increasing the average number of years of schooling, TVET reduces crime and the high costs of crime;

    TVET reduces migration and offsets the high costs of the brain-drain;

    TVET leads to moderated family size, reduced vulnerability, and higher security of living conditions for the family of the TVET graduate; and

    TVET perpetuates its benefits into retirement by maintaining or raising income during retirement years.

Developing countries have no choice but to embrace TVET as a necessity and precondition for socio-economic transformation. Furthermore, innovative technologies can easily be tapped into in order to deliver TVET ubiquitously, effectively and efficiently.

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