Changing Values International



ICT and vocational training: What does the private sector really need?

Posteado por Elizabeth Rodas, Stijn van der Krogt - 0 Coments

One of the challenges in vocational training is the relevance of careers and subjects offered. While visiting Kenya I found that a vocational training centre offered tailoring class to 4 students. Meanwhile, a nearby centre offered courses in computer training and secretarial services were overloaded with each 50 students. How can we achieve that young people follow careers with a real job opportunity?

Youth employment = Cool

Official figures of ILO indicate a 13% unemployed rate for youth. Given the enormous informality of most developing economies, this figure is to be much higher in practise, especially for this working in technical professions. Until recently, vocational training, one of the possible ways to prepare young people for the labour market, has been one of the least attended education sectors.

But this has changed! The political pressure on international cooperation to focus on private sector development, job creation and youth employment in particular has put vocational training in the spot light. The youth is the cool thing!

What’s the problem?

The facilities at public training centres often strongly differs from the small number of private training centres set up with private sector and/or donor support. Students at these courses have a much higher chance to find work or can start at least as apprentices. This indicates that it can work, but the private institutes make up only a very small part of market demand. So we need to work on getting the public vocational training institutions up to speed.

Most public training centres offer careers that they have been offering since a decade. This can be partially explained by the difficulties to get new careers accredited by the government. Endless procedures put off many initiatives of the more dynamic centres.

And if they introduce a new career, this is mostly not based on market opportunities but sheer popularity among parents and students or the simple fact that other institutes in the region offer the career. This can create a surplus if demand does not match with the sudden expansion in supply (the pigs cycle in economic terms). A study on the popularity of careers followed in Haiti shows that the top 2 of careers offered are project management and computer skills. Funny enough, the chances for a job are very low for project management and highest for computer skills (so at least 50% gets it right).

Can the private sector assist?

We recently organised a workshop with a group of public vocational training centres in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. To find out how the private sector could help to improve the relevance of vocational training we had invited the presidents of the three leading business associations of Santa Cruz. Without hesitation, they offered to advice the on careers with good labour market perspectives and to set up a program for apprentices. To our surprise, the directors of the training centres showed no interest in these proposals and asked for financial support and equipment. I could see the disappointment on the faces of the business leaders.

The business leaders later told me about their successful collaboration with private vocational training centres. Together they define a set of most needed knowledge and skills and the careers with high demand at the labour market. As a result, students have a much higher probability to find work after finishing their career.

Jobs in ICT

When looking out for careers that provide good perspectives for the youth, ICT is definitely one of the options. In Zambia the director of a vocational training institute told me that 80% of his students trained in computer skills and secretarial services found immediately a job after finishing school.

But he was worried that this applied mainly to urban areas. We discussed the possibilities to set up a new career in maintenance and repair of computers and mobile phones. Not a strange idea, and actually not at all complicated to implement and very relevant given the fact that both computers and mobile phones break down or stop functioning within 12 months, in urban areas, but even more in rural areas (lack of user capacity, maintenance, power cuts, heat, dust, etc.). I will ask if he has actually implemented this…

Why not setting up your own business?

The rapidly increasing youth unemployment makes that only a small part of students that with a vocational training certificate can find paid jobs. One way to help the youth to find work is to help them to set up their own business. For this vocational training centres should provide a well-defined entrepreneurship course for students that provides the competences to set up a grocery store, an car, computer or mobile phone repair workshop, even better, a farmer that knows how to make a profit.

A basic entrepreneurships course includes in the first place basic business planning, cost-benefit calculation, administration and marketing. How this can help small business I have seen in Wa, in Northern Ghana. Young and older starting entrepreneurs were trained in developing a basic business plan with the use of simple Word documents and Excel spread sheets. The majority of the participants indicated to be better able to plan and manage their business and monitor their costs, revenues and profits.

Apart from basic business skills, vocational training students need also to build less tangible competences such as persistence, risk taking and networking, to become a future entrepreneur. These competencies can be trained by using real live role-plays combined with interactive exercises available on the Web. Again using the power of traditional and modern ICTs.


To put this practise we started a new project to develop and implement an entrepreneurship course together with one of the larger vocational training centres in Santa Cruz. A new adventure we wanted to undertake since long. If you have ideas to share, please do so!


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