Education minister Janet Museveni has called for the expedition of plans to form a skills development council if Uganda is to compete successfully within economies of the East African region and beyond.
Ms Museveni said while government has for the last two decades implemented various reforms in the education sector, many youths have accessed basic education but lack necessary skills required by the labour market.
“To this effect, revitalization of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system was embarked on and needs to be carried forward,” Ms Museveni said while presiding over a consultative meeting on the formation of the TVET council held recently at Hotel Africana.
“Our country’s Vision 2040 has also identified TVET as one of the leading sub-sectors that we must embrace to drive our economy towards attainment of a middle-income status.”
In 2012, President Museveni launched the business, technical and vocational education and training (Btvet) strategic plan 2012-2022 aimed at creating employable skills and competencies relevant to the labour market rather than educational certificates as was before.
The Btvet plan recommended the establishment of an autonomous integrated organisation in form of a TVET council but the project had stalled. Ms Museveni said a lot of consultations have already taken place with stakeholders and it is time to get started.
“It is important that employers [both in public and private] determine the kind of skills required to build a competent workforce for the world of work. There is no doubt that such approach will increase productivity as well as competitiveness for economic growth,” she said.
Her views were backed by the Belgian ambassador, Hugo Verbist, also chair of the Education Development Partners Group (EDP).
Verbist said Uganda’s private sector will not expand if the local workforce lacks technical skills and flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing and demanding working environment.
“Moreover, creating higher employment levels will be crucial to absorb the existing workforce and battle impoverishment. The role of the TVET council comes in handy with regards to preparing young people for employment,” Verbist said.
He however, said that as formation of the TVET council takes shape, it will be important for it not to excessively depend on the education ministry as it might compromise independence.
“The Skilling Uganda strategy requires employers to be in the driver’s seat of the skills development process and this must be upheld for the success of the council,” he said.
To kick-start the TVET council, government needs at least Shs 4bn to cover annual running costs and another Shs 2 trillion to fund formal and informal skills development in the country over the next nine years.
According to the ministry of education permanent secretary, Alex Kakooza, the council will be made up of no more than 13 members including officials from ministries of Education, Gender and Finance, workers organisations, major employers of various sectors and the Private Sector Foundation Uganda.
“The chairperson of the council will be selected through a competitive process and must be a prominent champion for skills development in the country and appointed by the president,” Kakooza said.
Members will also be tasked to align skills development with national economic and social priorities as well as aspirations of learners.
At school level, the council will give primary and secondary students basic vocational skills to enable them choose which system to follow after national examinations.
“We shall assess competencies attained by learners in certain fields and issue national certificates to candidates along with their Uneb pass slips. For those who continue with general education, they will have some survival/life skills in case of employment scarcity,” he said.
Once the proposals of the council are completed, they will be submitted for cabinet approval.