THE third annual Expo of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) were organized from November 28 to December 3 at Gikondo Expo Ground under the theme “TVET and Innovation as key to sustainable development”. More than 3000 people visited different stands that were displayed by 290 exhibitors among them 40 technical and vocational schools. This year’s expo was special as it brought 16 foreign exhibitors from regional countries as well as specialists from India and Singapore that had come to share their experiences with Rwanda.
Teaching technical skills in Rwanda is one of the building blocks to increase productivity and help young people to get employment opportunities. The government of Rwanda has a program to create at least 200,000 off-farms jobs every year. “This objective cannot be achieved if it is not done through TVET that empower youth with technical skills that are in high demand on the job market”, said the minister of education Dr Vincent Biruta who was the guest of honor.
Organized in partnership of the Workforce Development Authority WDA and the Private Sector Federation PSF, the TVET Expo was intended to showcase the achievements of Rwanda in this domain and be a platform where best practices can be shared among exhibitors. Benjamin Gasamagera, the chairman of the private sector federation said that researches that have been conducted worldwide have shown that developed countries have progressed because their governments have given priority to technical education.
During this financial year, the government of Rwanda has s increased the budget allocated to TVET to 50% compared to 2012. “This is the only government programs that were boosted at this rate and it clearly shows that the government is committed to increase the capacity of TVET”, noted the minister of education. In addition to this the ministry of education is planning to increase the number of young people who join technical schools. The rate has to increase from 38% of children who complete 9 year basic education in 2013 to 60 % in 2017.
President Paul Kagame was praised for setting up the ministry in charge of TVET. Dr Vincent Biruta appreciated the growing partnership between his ministry and PSF for the last three years in organizing the annual TVET expo. He noted that the annual expo will be updating the public on the achievements of technical education and encourage youth to embrace them. “We want to appeal to young people to study technical skills because they give more employment opportunities”, noted the minister of education.
The positive impacts of TVET was pointed out to countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea among others that were on the same level of economic development like many African countries in the 1960 when they got their independence. “Today these countries have achieved a lot in their economic development agendas because their governments have empowered TVET”, said Gasamagera. He further noted that in case TVET are strengthened, they will increase technical skills among youth in such a way they can create their own employment when they complete their education.
Before the implementation of TVET in Rwanda, researches have been conducted by the Private Sector Federation to know skills that are available and those that are needed on the job market. It was concluded that what is being done by technical schools is not known. A situation that lead private companies to import products and services that can be sourced locally. This has a negative effect on the balance of trade whereby the few resources Rwanda has had to leave the country.
In addition to that, many jobs that require technical skills are being done by foreigners. The latter are highly paid and this constrains local companies. It was also found that local employees have inadequate skills compared to jobs that are available. The lack of employment opportunities to students that graduate from technical schools in Rwanda was another challenge amongst other according to the same research by the Private Sector Federation.
All these challenges needed to be addressed and this led to the establishment of TVET to teach young people technical skills that are marketable on the job market. Chong Choon Leong, a senior manager at ITE Education Services from Singapore who had come to take part in the expo stressed that technical education is an expensive venture for governments and requires qualified human resources as well as modern equipment to be committed to technical schools.
Nevertheless the public still need to change the mindset about technical education. Many people in Rwanda still think that when you don’t graduate from the university, you will not be considered in the society and hence your career prospect will be jeopardized. Dr Vincent Biruta remarked that the reality on the ground has proved them wrong as we see that young people who have graduated from TVET have the most employment choices.
Other issue that TVET faces in Rwanda is that of the lack of girl’s participation in the study of technical skills. The minister of education mentioned that it was important that the minister of gender and family promotion was present at the function as the two ministries are planning to partner so that as many girls as possible can embrace TVET.
The ministry of education is planning to open up a college that will be training teachers in TVET. Rwanda is set to increase the number of qualified human resources that will be teaching in technical schools.
Dr Vincent Biruta said that it is one of the reasons why guests from Singapore and India were invited so that they can help Rwanda to solve the shortage of qualified teachers. “We want to find out how we can partner with these countries to get qualified teachers from them”.
Finding internship opportunities for those young people that graduate from technical schools is another challenge that was pointed out. Because of few industries locally, it is still imperative to find schools or industries outside the country where graduates from Rwanda can train themselves. The minister of education noted that some solutions to this have been found as some schools have started to work in partnership with other foreign schools or companies so that TVET graduates from Rwanda can be sent there for internships.
A bright future
Youth from Rwanda are set to be equipped with technical skills that will empower them to compete on the job market. Endowed with required skills, they will also be able to create their own jobs instead of eternally being job seekers as it is still seen today. The country will also be able to attract more foreign direct investment because of the availability of qualified human resources.
There is no other way for Rwanda to achieve Vision 2020 than to equip its youth with technical skills. The country doesn’t have much natural resources compared to other African countries and it is the human capital the country rely on to transform itself into a knowledge-based middle income country by 2020.