Africa Research and Resource Forum

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Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Industrialization PDF Print E-mail

Author: George Afeti[1]


Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has emerged as one of the most effective human resource development strategies that African countries need to embrace in order to train and modernize their technical workforce for rapid industrialization and national development. This paper discusses the current environment in which TVET systems in Africa operate and highlights some promising reforms that are underway in a number of countries and the lessons that can be learned. The impact of globalisation on technical and vocational education in Africa and how skills training in developing countries can benefit from a globalising economy are also discussed. The paper argues that in order for technical and vocational education to effectively support industrialisation, economic growth, wealth creation and poverty eradication, skills training must be of high quality and competency-based, incorporate the use of modern information and communication technologies, be relevant to the needs of industry, efficient, and adaptable to the changing technological work environment. The paper suggests that these goals are best achieved within a national TVET policy framework that is linked to other national policies on education and training at all levels, industrialisation and employment creation, and national socio-economic development in general. The paper concludes that technical and vocational education is a necessary but not sufficient condition for industrialisation. What is required in addition are government policies that stimulate the economy and grow high-performance enterprises that demand highly-skilled labour and consequently create opportunities for further technical education and training at a higher level in a virtuous circle of sustained industrial growth and increasing demand for higher quality technical workforce.

1. Introduction

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is back on the development agenda of many African countries after years of benign neglect, instigated by a complex set of reasons that included budgetary constraints and criticisms of the World Bank in the early 90's on its direction and focus.[2] The World Bank had argued at the time that the cost of technical and vocational education was too high compared with the returns to the economy, that the quality of training was poor and that there was considerable mismatch between training and the needs of industry. Simply put, the delivery of vocational education and training was not cost-effective. However, since the beginning of the new millennium, a fresh awareness of the critical role that TVET can play in economic growth and national development has dawned among policy makers in many African countries and within the international donor community. The increasing importance that African governments now attach to TVET is reflected in the various Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers that governments have developed in collaboration with The World Bank.[3] In its poverty reduction strategy document, Cameroon for example intends to develop vocational and professional training to facilitate integration into the labour market; Cote d'Ivoire talks about strengthening vocational training; Ghana links vocational education and training with education of the youth and the development of technical and entrepreneurial skills; Lesotho and Rwanda focus on linking TVET to businesses while Malawi emphasises the need to promote self-employment through skills development. Other countries that have prioritised TVET initiatives in their national development policy documents include Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia.

One of the most important features of TVET is its orientation towards the world of work and the emphasis of the curriculum on the acquisition of employable skills. TVET delivery systems are therefore well placed to train the skilled and entrepreneurial workforce that Africa needs to create wealth and emerge out of poverty. Another important characteristic of TVET is that it can be delivered at different levels of sophistication. This means that TVET can respond, not only to the needs of different types of industries, but also to the different training needs of learners from different socio-economic and academic backgrounds, and prepare them for gainful employment and sustainable livelihoods. A skilled workforce is a basic requirement for driving the engine of industrial and economic growth, and TVET holds the key to building this type of technical and entrepreneurial workforce.

The term "TVET" as used in this paper follows the 1997 UNESCO International Standard Classification of Education definition, which is education and training to "acquire the practical skills, know-how and understanding necessary for employment in a particular occupation, trade or group of occupations or trades." It is important to note that TVET is not only about knowing how to do things but also understanding why things are done in a particular way. The conceptual definition of TVET cuts across educational levels (post-primary, secondary, and even tertiary) and sectors (formal or school-based, non-formal or enterprise-based, and informal or traditional apprenticeship). It is therefore important to keep in mind the transversal and longitudinal nature of TVET as we attempt to highlight the importance of this type of education and training. In order to place the discussion in the right perspective, we shall first examine the current training and socio-economic environment within which TVET systems in Africa operate.

2. Current status of TVET in Africa

TVET systems in Africa differ from country to country and are delivered at different levels in different types of institutions, including technical and vocational schools (both public and private), polytechnics, enterprises, and apprenticeship training centres. In West Africa in particular, traditional apprenticeship offers the largest opportunity for the acquisition of employable skills in the informal economy. In Ghana, the informal sector accounts for more than 90 percent of all skills training in the country.

In all of Sub-Saharan Africa, formal TVET programmes are school-based. In some countries, training models follow those of the colonial power. In general however, students enter the vocational education track at the end of primary school, corresponding to 6 – 8 years of education as in countries like Burkina Faso and Kenya, or at the end of lower or junior secondary school, which corresponds to 9 – 12 years of what is called basic education in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Swaziland. In many countries, the vocational education track has the unfortunate reputation of being a dead-end, so far as academic progression is concerned and fit for those pupils who are unable to continue to higher education.

The duration of school-based technical and vocational education is between three and six years, depending on the country and the model. Some countries like Ghana, Senegal, and Swaziland in an attempt to expose young people to pre-employment skills have incorporated basic vocational skills into the lower or junior secondary school curriculum. However, this approach has met with some scepticism. The sceptics argue that technical and vocational education for employment is unlikely to be effective when delivered concurrently with general education in junior secondary schools. This is because employment-oriented training requires inputs in human (qualified instructors) and material resources that are not available or are too expensive to provide in all junior secondary schools in a country or even in a cluster of secondary schools. Vocationalisation of the junior secondary school curriculum should therefore be viewed with caution. A good basic education provides a solid foundation for a good technical and vocational education. The only cases in which vocationalisation may be helpful is probably in the use of computers, general agriculture or farming, and entrepreneurship. Computer literacy is relevant to all occupations while the teaching of basic agriculture and entrepreneurship is not capital-intensive or too costly.

What type of governance structures do we have for managing TVET in Africa? In many countries, oversight responsibility is shared in general between the ministries responsible for education or technical education and labour or employment, although some specialised vocational training programmes (e.g. in agriculture, health, transport, etc.) fall under the supervision of the sector ministries. In spite of the large variety of training programmes, from hairdressing to electronics and automobile repair, the place of TVET in the overall school system in many countries is marginal both in terms of enrolments and number of institutions.[4]

The socio-economic environment and the contextual framework in which TVET delivery systems currently operate on the continent may be described by the following groups of indicators:

i) Weak national economies characterised by low job growth, high population growth, and a growing labour force:

The per capita income of most Sub-Saharan African countries (outside South Africa) is less than US$400. Although the economy in a few countries, including Botswana, Ghana and Kenya, is growing at a respectable rate of more than 5%, the annual real growth rate in many countries is less than 2%, limiting the prospects for employment creation. On the other hand, it is estimated that about 500,000 young people add to the labour force each year in Kenya, as many as 700,000 in Tanzania and 250,000 in Zimbabwe.[5] Globally, African economies face the daunting task of finding productive employment for 7 to 10 million annual new job seekers into the labour market over the next few years. This huge deficit in the employment statistics is not unrelated to the high population growth rate of African countries and the increasing number of school leavers arising out of national initiatives of the past decade or two to achieve universal primary education.

ii) Shrinking or stagnant wage employment opportunities especially in the industrial sector:

Apart from Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ghana and South Africa, the industrial labour force is less than 10% in most African countries[6]. The vast majority of the workforce is in the services and agricultural sectors. In many African countries, with the notable exception of South Africa and Mauritius, about 85% of the workforce is in the informal, non-wage employment sector.

iii) Huge numbers of poorly educated, unskilled and unemployed youth:

Although some progress has been made, the illiteracy rate in many countries is still high at over 50%. Of significance to TVET is the fact that enrolments at the secondary school level, where TVET is normally provided, is also low with only a few countries having a gross enrolment rate of over 50%. The average school completion rates in Africa are such that many young people drop out of the school system before they have acquired any practical skills and competences for the world of work. Average completion rates are 80 – 90% for primary school; 30 – 40% for lower or junior secondary school; and about 20% for senior secondary school. And only 1 – 2% of the college age group actually enter the universities and other tertiary institutions. In Ghana, for example, 49.1% of the total workforce is illiterate and only 3.9% have had any vocational or technical training[7]. In Tanzania, less than five percent of the labour force is educated above primary school level.

iv) Educated but unemployed college and university graduates:

In almost all countries in Africa, large numbers of graduates coming out of the formal school system are unemployed, although opportunities for skilled workers do exist in the economy. This situation has brought into sharp focus the mismatch between training and labour market skill demands. Critics argue that the lack of inputs from prospective employers into curriculum design and training delivery in universities and colleges is partly responsible for the mismatch. Another reason that is often cited for the incidence of high unemployment among graduates is the absence of entrepreneurial training in the school curriculum.

v) Uncoordinated, unregulated and fragmented TVET delivery systems:

Except for a few countries (notably, South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, and Namibia), TVET provision in Africa is spread over different ministries and organisations, including NGOs and church-based organisations, with a multiplicity of testing and certification standards. This situation has implications for standardization of training, cost-effectiveness, quality assurance, recognition of prior learning, and the further education of TVET graduates, because of the absence of a framework for mutual recognition of qualifications. In the informal sector, traditional apprenticeship, which is often the only means for the rural poor and the economically disadvantaged to learn a trade is marginalised, unregulated, and lacks government support and intervention. The diverse TVET management structures and the sharing of supervisory responsibilities by various government bodies and ministries account for some of the inefficiencies in the system, like duplication and segmentation of training, and the absence of a common platform for developing coherent policies and joint initiatives. Such fragmented governance structures do not promote effective coordination, sharing of resources, and articulation within the system.

vi) Low quality:

In general, the quality of training is low, with undue emphasis on theory and certification rather than on skills acquisition and proficiency testing. Inadequate instructor training, obsolete training equipment, and lack of instructional materials are some of the factors that combine to reduce the effectiveness of training in meeting the required knowledge and skills objectives. High quality skills training requires qualified instructors, appropriate workshop equipment, adequate supply of training materials, and practice by learners.

vii) Geographical, gender and economic inequities:

Although access and participation in TVET in Africa reflects the gender-biased division of labour (justifying therefore the current efforts of gender mainstreaming in vocational education and training), we should not lose sight of the economic and geographical inequities. Economic inequity is a greater barrier to participation in technical and vocational education than gender. In many African countries, children of poor parents are unable to afford the fees charged by training institutions. Invariably, the good technical and vocational schools are located in the big towns and cities, thereby limiting access to rural folks.

viii) Poor public perception:

For many years, technical and vocational education in Africa has been considered as a career path for the less academically endowed. This perception has been fuelled by the low academic requirements for admission into TVET programmes and the limited prospects for further education and professional development. Worse, the impression is sometimes created by governments that the primary objective of the vocational education track is to keep dropouts and "lockouts" from the basic and secondary school system off the streets, rather than project this type of training as an effective strategy to train skilled workers for the employment market. The term "lockouts" refers to students who are unable to move up the educational ladder, not because of poor grades but because of lack of places at the higher level.

ix) Weak monitoring and evaluation:

Current training programmes in many countries are supply-driven. TVET programmes are very often not designed to meet observed or projected labour market demands. The emphasis appears to be on helping the unemployed to find jobs, without any critical attempt to match training to available jobs. This situation has resulted in many vocational school graduates not finding jobs or finding themselves in jobs for which they have had no previous training. Non-targeted skills development is one of the major weaknesses of the TVET system in many African countries. Training institutions also do not track the employment destination of their graduates. Consequently, valuable feedback from past trainees on the quality of the training they have received and the opportunity for their experience-based inputs to be factored into the review of curricula and training packages are lost. In other words, the use of tracer studies to improve the market responsiveness of training programmes is currently absent in many countries.

x) Inadequate financing:

Only a few governments in Africa are able to finance TVET at a level that can support quality training. Ethiopia spends only about 0.5 percent of its education and training budget on TVET while Ghana spends only about 1 percent. The figure is a respectable 10 percent for Mali and 12.7 percent for Gabon. It must be recognised that TVET is expensive on a per student basis. In 1992, Gabon spent as much as US$1,820 per TVET student.[8] Unit costs are necessarily expected to be higher in TVET institutions than in primary and secondary schools because of smaller student-to-teacher ratios, expensive training equipment, and costly training materials that are "wasted" during practical lessons.

xi) Public versus private provision of TVET:

TVET in Africa is delivered by both government and private providers, which include for-profit institutions and non-profit, NGO and church or faith-based institutions. School-based government training institutions are generally fewer in number than those in the private sector, although Kenya with its over 600 Youth Polytechnics is a notable exception. In Ghana, government TVET institutions include 23 technical institutes under the Ministry of Education with a total enrolment of about 19,000 students and 38 National Vocational Training Institutes run by the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment. There are an estimated 500 private establishments of diverse quality that enrol over 100,000 students. The Catholic Church is the single largest private provider of TVET in Ghana, enrolling about 10,000 students in its 58 technical and vocational training institutions.

In almost all countries, non-government provision of TVET is on the increase both in terms of number of institutions and student numbers. This trend is linked to the fact that private providers train for the informal sector (which is an expanding job market all over Africa) while public institutions train mostly for the more or less stagnant industrial sector. Private providers also target "soft" business and service sector skills like secretarial practice, cookery, and dressmaking that do not require huge capital outlays to deliver. On the other hand, the first choice of students is the public vocational schools because of the lower fees charged and the perception of better quality. Women constitute the majority of students in private institutions (76 percent in Ghana; 60 percent in Tanzania and Zimbabwe; 55 percent in Senegal).[9] For obvious reasons, for-profit private providers are often concentrated in the urban centres, while Church-based institutions tend to be based in rural and economically disadvantaged locations.

In Tanzania, public institutions account for only 8 percent of the total number of institutions, while enterprise-based training (at 22 percent), for-profit institutions (at 35 percent), and Church/NGO providers (at 31 percent) make up the bulk of the private sector institutions. In Zambia, public TVET provision is at 18 percent, while Church, NGO and for-profit providers take up 18 percent and 36 percent, respectively.[10] It is important to distinguish within the private providers, in-company or enterprise-based training that is often dedicated to the sharpening of specific skills of company employees or is designed to train potential employees to perform professional tasks related to the company's activities.

State support for non-government providers vary from country to country. In Ghana, government support is currently limited to the payment of salaries of selected key management and teaching staff and small grants for administrative purposes. In some francophone countries (Cote d'Ivoire and Mali), non-government providers receive much more substantial support.[11]

xii) Threat of HIV/AIDS:

The impact of HIV/AIDS on the labour force in Africa (and hence its potential effect on vocational and technical training and skills development strategies) is considered alarming in a number of countries. According to the United Nations AIDS Prevention Agency (UNAIDS), an estimated 3.8 million adults and children in Sub-Saharan Africa became infected with HIV during 2000, bringing the total living with HIV/AIDS to 25.3 million.[12] However, information is scarce on how African governments have factored the threat of HIV/AIDS into their TVET programmes. Yet the technical and vocational training environment, because of the inevitable use of sharp cutting tools and machines for training, presents a constant danger for the spread of the disease and puts the trainees at risk.

The current status of TVET in Africa is not all about weaknesses. TVET systems in a growing number of countries are undergoing or have undergone promising reforms that are designed to build on the inherent strengths of the system and respond to the needs of industry and the challenges of the 21st century. Some of these African and international best practices in TVET delivery can be adapted and adopted by others for rapid industrialisation.

3. International and African best practices and strategies

The primary objective of all technical and vocational education and training programmes is the acquisition of relevant knowledge, practical skills and attitudes for gainful employment in a particular trade or occupational area. The need to link training to employment (either self or paid employment) is at the base of all the best practices and strategies observed world-wide. In recent years, in view of the rapid technological advances taking place in industry and the labour market in general, flexibility, adaptability, and life-long learning have become the second major objective of vocational and technical training. The third objective, which is particularly important for African countries, is to develop TVET as a vehicle for rapid industrialization, as well as economic empowerment and social mobility of the individual.

Invariably, effective vocational and technical training begins with the formulation of a national policy and the establishment of a national implementation body, either as a semi-autonomous body or as an agency within a designated government ministry. Such agencies or National Vocational Training Authorities have been established in many countries, including Botswana (Botswana Training Authority – BOTA), Mauritius (Industrial and Vocational Training Board – IVTB), Namibia (National Vocational Training Board – NVTB), Tanzania (Vocational Education Training Authority – VETA), and Zambia (Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority – TEVETA). Ghana has also recently passed an Act of Parliament that establishes a Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) which will have overall responsibility for skills development in the country. The Council is expected to establish an Apprenticeship Training Board to link non-formal and informal vocational training to the formal TVET sector. Private training providers, including NGOs and Church Based Organisations (CBOs) are represented on the Council. In general, Training Authorities, through their various specialised organs and occupational advisory committees, have the responsibility to develop national vocational qualification frameworks and proficiency levels as well as standards for validation of training, certification and accreditation of training institutions.

From outside Africa, two training models stand out for mention: the centralised Singaporean model and the dual system practiced in Germany. In Singapore, a National Manpower Council ensures that training is relevant to the needs of the labour market. Training also includes the inculcation of shared cultural values and attitude development. The dual system of vocational training in Germany allows for learning to take place in a vocational school and in an enterprise concurrently. Approximately, 70% of all school leavers, aged between 15 and 19 years undergo training under the dual system. The dual system promotes the linkage of vocational training to the world of work. It is doubtful, however, if the industrial fabric in Africa is sufficiently developed and versatile to support the German dual system type of training.

4. Strategic Policy Framework

How then can technical and vocational training be promoted in Africa in order to achieve the strategic policy goal of stimulating industrial and economic growth? In my opinion, five broad strategic objectives will have to be met. These are: enhancing the quality of training, assuring relevance and employability of trainees, improving coherence and management of training provision, promoting flexibility of training and life-long learning, and enhancing the status and attractiveness of TVET.

i) Enhancing the quality of training

Training for high-quality skills requires appropriate training equipment and tools, adequate supply of training materials, and practice by the learners. Other requirements include relevant textbooks and training manuals and qualified instructors with experience in enterprises. Well-qualified instructors with industry-based experience are hard to come by, since such categories of workers are also in high demand in the labour market. But they could be suitably motivated to offer part-time instruction in technical and vocational schools.

Technical education is expensive and quality comes at a price. There is no substitute for adequate funding when it comes to delivering quality vocational education and training. In this regard, a training fund can be established to support TVET from payroll levies on employers. Training levies are in effect taxes imposed on enterprises to support skills development. Although the tax level is generally less than 2 percent of the enterprise payroll, the cooperation of employers is necessary for the successful implementation of such a scheme. Training levies are in operation in several African countries, including Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritius, Mali, South Africa, and Tanzania.

Competency Based Training (CBT) can also enhance quality. The concept of competency-based training is not new to Africa. Traditional apprenticeship, particularly as practiced in West Africa, is competency based. A competency is the aggregate of knowledge, skills and attitudes; it is the ability to perform a prescribed professional task. CBT is actually learning by doing and by coaching. It is necessary to incorporate the principles and methodology of CBT into the formal technical and vocational education system. However, since the development and implementation of competency-based qualifications (involving standards, levels, skills recognition and institutional arrangements) are very costly in terms of training infrastructure and staff capacity, piloting of the CBT approach in a few economic and employment growth areas is recommended, rather than a wholesale training reform strategy. Vocational students should be encouraged to build a portfolio of projects undertaken or items produced during training as evidence of proficiency and proof of ability to perform prescribed professional tasks.

Quality should be seen as "fit for purpose", rather than as measuring up to an ill-defined standard. Quality that is fit for purpose is dynamic and improves as the purpose or the job to be done moves up to a higher plane. A decentralised and diverse TVET system that includes school-based training, enterprise-based training, and apprenticeship training (both non-formal and informal) requires a strong regulatory framework for overseeing training curricula, standards, qualifications and funding. A suitable qualifications framework and inspection system will provide the necessary quality assurance and control mechanism within such a diverse system.

ii) Assuring relevance and employability of trainees

Assuring the employability of trainees begins with effective guidance and counselling of potential learners in the choice of training programmes in relation to their aptitude and academic background. Employability presupposes the acquisition of employable skills that are related to the demands of the labour market. Labour market information systems and tracer studies which track the destination of graduates in the job market can provide useful feedback for the revision of training programmes so as to enhance the employability of trainees.

iii) Improving coherence and management of training provision

In order to ensure coherence and management of training provision, it will be necessary to establish a national agency or body to coordinate and drive the entire TVET system. Depending on the country, this agency could be under the umbrella of the ministry of education and vocational training or stand on its own as an autonomous body. In either case, the coordinating agency should include representation from all relevant stakeholders, including government policy makers, employers, public and private training providers, civil society, alumni associations, and development partners.

Strengthening the management and coherence of training provision cannot be complete without a National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF) that ensures the transfer of learning credits and mutual recognition of qualifications within the entire system. The South African National Qualifications Framework provides such a mechanism for awarding qualifications based on the achievement of specified learning outcomes prescribed by industry. The framework allows for accumulation of credits and recognition of prior learning, which promotes the culture of life-long learning. The development of a qualifications framework is not an easy task. It involves the active involvement of industry practitioners, teachers, and policy makers. Some countries have a single qualifications framework that embraces both vocational and general education and extends beyond vocational qualifications. As an example, Tanzania is developing a 10-level national qualifications framework (NQF), ranging from craftsman qualifications (level 1 – 3) through technician, diploma, and bachelors degree qualifications to masters degree (level 9) and doctorate degree award at level 10. It is, however, too early to evaluate the Tanzanian experience or recommend it to other countries.

iv) Flexibility of training and life-long learning

Life-long learning has a beneficial effect on the development of a high quality TVET system. This is because the skills of the workforce can be continually upgraded through a life-long learning approach. This also means that learners who have had limited access to training in the past can have a second chance to build on their skills and competences. Life-long learning also involves the recognition of prior learning, whether in the formal or non-formal system. A National Qualifications Framework can provide the needed flexibility and coherent framework for life-long learning within the entire TVET system through the creation of equivalent qualifications across all the sub-sectors of vocational and technical training: formal, non-formal and informal.

v) Status and attractiveness of TVET

Enhancing the status and attractiveness of TVET will involve changing perceptions and attitudes of the public about technical and vocational education. For this to happen, the use of role models in TVET and the involvement of successful entrepreneurs in motivation campaigns, especially in schools, will be necessary. An embarrassing shortage of role models is one of the banes of TVET. Technical and vocational education should be seen as a valid passport to a good job and not as a second best choice or the only educational route for the academically less endowed.

The status of technical and vocational education can also be enhanced by upgrading polytechnics and polytechnic-type non-university institutions to offer technical or "skills" degrees. The trend world-wide is to strengthen polytechnic institutions and their role in industrial and technological development, re-engineer their training programmes for greater relevance and higher quality, and generally raise their status and attractiveness as higher institutions of choice for senior secondary school leavers. Japan, Korea and Singapore have been awarding "skills" degrees for many years now and Ghana has recently granted accreditation to two of its polytechnics to start offering degree programmes in a few technological areas. The Kenya Government has also decided to follow this positive trend of revitalizing polytechnic education and promoting skills training to the highest level possible.

5. The impact and challenge of globalisation

Like every aspect of human endeavour today, the forces of globalisation have not overlooked technical and vocational education and training. Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister once had this to say about globalisation:

"You have no choice, this is inevitable. These forces of change driving the future don't stop at national boundaries, don't respect tradition. They wait for no one and no nation. They are universal."

Globalisation is characterised by the increasing integration of national economies around the world. The process of globalisation is driven by the ease of information exchange, capital flows, and the migration of people, labour, goods, and services across national boundaries. The challenge of globalisation for TVET in Africa is the tension it has created between developing skills for poverty eradication and skills for global economic competitiveness. Although the primary objective of technical and vocational training in Africa is to support economic growth and wealth creation for poverty alleviation through the acquisition of employable skills, a strategic approach to skills development on the continent cannot ignore the effects of globalisation.

For this reason, the acquisition of "industrial" skills is as important to Africa as the basic vocational and technical skills. In the advanced developing countries like Singapore and Malaysia, the rise to economic prominence was supported by the development of high level technical skills. However, the experience of these countries also shows that their industrial lift-off was preceded by high stocks of literacy and basic skills. The sheer lack of skills of all sorts in Africa and the demands of poverty alleviation mean that African countries must pursue the development of skills at all levels of the spectrum (basic, secondary, and tertiary levels), with each country emphasizing the skill levels that correspond best to their current stage of economic development and the needs of the local labour market. At the same time, the important requirement of building a society imbued with high stocks of basic numeracy and literacy skills cannot be ignored.

Modern society is characterised by the increasing application of information and communication technologies. ICT education therefore must form a strong component of all levels of skills training. In the globalising labour market, employees are regularly required to update and upgrade their knowledge and skills in order to remain abreast with the rapid technological advances in the workplace. Globalisation reinforces the imperatives of quality, relevance, flexibility, technology-mediated learning, and life-long learning. These attributes constitute the education and training bench-marks for skilled human resource development in the knowledge-driven economies of today.

Interestingly, globalisation can offer Africa opportunities for high-level technical skills training through the process of technology transfer. In effect, technology-rich trans-national corporations, if suitably motivated, can become important private sector training providers of high-level industrial skills within the TVET system of their host countries. This is because a major dimension of globalisation is foreign direct investment (FDI) and the implantation of trans-national corporations in developing economies. FDI inflows, accompanied by top-grade technical expertise and modern manufacturing machinery can trigger a process of technology transfer, skills accumulation and industrialisation in the receiving country. Although the debate is still on as to whether globalisation helps or hurts, a country can upgrade its industries and increase the skills stock of its technical workforce through FDI and the operations of technologically advanced multinational companies in the country. The activities of such companies may be directly or gently steered by government policy to include provision of high-level skills training and the establishment of collaborative practical research and innovative training programmes with the country's higher education institutions, particularly the universities and polytechnics.

However, globalisation can also hurt the development of indigenous technology. The downside effect of globalisation on technical and vocational education and training in Africa is the flooding of local markets with all manner of cheap goods and technology products from foreign countries. What is the market for a locally produced wooden chair when the imported plastic version is cheaper? Again, how competitive is the cost of a locally sewn dress against cheaper imported second-hand clothes? National policies should therefore take into account these and other globalisation-induced factors in designing TVET programmes and courses for industrialisation in an increasingly inter-connected world economy.

6. Key policy issues

What are the key policy issues and strategies involved in the re-engineering of an effective technical and vocational education system for industrialisation, economic growth and wealth creation? To my mind, there are five policy issues that cannot be ignored.

i) Linkage with other national policies and strategies

Since technical and vocational education constitutes only one item of many on a country's development agenda, it will be necessary for each country to define and specify clear articulation lines between TVET and other sectors of the national economy in order to effectively link its TVET policy to other national strategies and policies in the area of education and training at all levels, employment, and socio-economic development. This means that national TVET strategies in Africa must give priority to training in areas such as agriculture, ICT, and modern infrastructure development. An efficient transport and communication network, a reliable energy and water supply system, adequate housing, and national food security are basic requirements for industrialisation.

ii) Linkage with regional and international policies

In the inter-connected world of today, no country is an island. It is therefore important for national TVET policies to create room for possible dovetailing into existing regional and international education and training policy frameworks and protocols. National TVET strategies should take into account the education and training protocols of regional groupings like ECOWAS, SADC, and COMESA (where they exist), and those of acknowledged international agencies involved in education and skills training, such as UNESCO, ADEA, and ILO.

iii) Linkage with the world of work

Since the ultimate objective of TVET is employability and employment promotion, it is necessary to link training to the needs of the labour market. TVET must be relevant and demand-driven, rather than supply-driven and a stand-alone activity. In order to do this, data is required on the actual employability of TVET graduates, available job opportunities, and the evolving skills demands on the labour front. Determining the demand for skills is best achieved through country-specific Labour Market Information Systems (LMIS) and other survey instruments. The function of a labour market information system or labour market "observatory" is to collect, process and make employment projections from information provided by employment ministries and agencies and from demographic surveys, tracer studies that track the employment destination of TVET graduates, labour market related reports produced by economic think-tanks, and feedback from employers. An effective LMIS will be difficult to establish and operate now in many African countries for the simple reason that there is a paucity of data and information from which labour market trends can be captured, as well as lack of trained research staff with adequate technical expertise to run the system. In the short term, however, indicative labour market information can be gathered from trade and employer associations, NGOs, employment agencies, as well as large public and private sector employers. Training institutions can also conduct local labour market surveys in and around their localities. Information so gathered and analysed would then serve as inputs for the development of new or revised courses and training programmes, equipment and learning materials selection, instructor formation, and guidance and counselling of students and trainees.

iv) Instructor training and professionalisation of TVET staff

The professional and pedagogical competence of the technical teacher is crucial to the successful implementation of any TVET strategy. Governments should therefore make conscious efforts, not only to train but also to retain technical teachers in the system. Technical teachers may be suitably motivated through equitable remuneration packages and incentive schemes that may include government subventions and loans to teacher associations and special credit facilities for the teachers to acquire cars, houses, etc.

The delivery of quality TVET is also closely linked to the building of strong management and leadership capacity to drive the entire system. TVET system managers, professionals and policy deciders will therefore also have to be trained and their skills upgraded to enable them confidently drive the system with its various implementation structures, including qualifications framework, accreditation standards, assessment guidelines, quality assurance and accountability frameworks.

v) Funding and equipping TVET institutions

On a per student basis and compared with other levels of education, in particular primary and secondary education, TVET is much more expensive to deliver. There is need therefore to spread the funding net as wide as possible to include:

  • National Governments: Governments should allocate a respectable percentage of their national budgets to the TVET sector
  • Employers: Employers, both public and private, should contribute to a training levy based on a percentage of their enterprise payrolls.
  • Development Partners: The World Bank and the African Development Bank, for example, can support country-specific projects, multinational projects, and micro-financing schemes.
  • Trainees: Equitable cost-sharing mechanisms and fees paid by students and trainees should help offset their training costs
  • Training Providers: Training providers and institutions can raise funds internally through the operations of their production and commercial units
  • Community: Local communities can make cash and non-cash contributions in the form of land and through community fundraising activities.
  • Donors: Individuals or groups (e.g. wealthy individuals, churches or faith-based organisations, NGOs) can support TVET through donations and endowments.

7. Policy roles and recommendations

Effective technical and vocational education and training for industrialisation can only happen if all the relevant stakeholders play their part. Governments, training institutions, parents and guardians, development partners and employers, all have important roles to play.


  • Develop and support implementation of national TVET policies;
  • Improve coherence of governance and management of TVET;
  • Introduce policies and incentives that will support increased private sector participation in TVET delivery;
  • Improve capital investment in TVET;
  • Establish TVET management information systems for education and training, including labour market information system;
  • Institute measures to reduce gender, economic, and geographical inequities in TVET provision;
  • Introduce sustainable financing schemes for TVET;
  • Increase funding support to the sector;
  • Build leadership and management capacity to drive TVET system;
  • Mainstream vocational education into the general education system, so that the vocational track is less dead-end;
  • Introduce ICT into TVET
  • Constantly monitor and periodically evaluate the performance of the system and apply corrective measures accordingly.

Educational Institutions and Training Providers

  • Provide training within national policy framework;
  • Deliver a flexible and demand-driven training;
  • Develop business plans to support training activities;
  • Establish strong linkages and collaboration with employers and industry;
  • Mainstream gender into training activities and programmes;
  • Introduce ICT into training
  • Institute bursary schemes for poor trainees;
  • Strengthen guidance and counselling services to trainees;
  • Network and bench-mark with other training providers;
  • Involve community, parents and guardians in training activities.
  • Training institutions should be encouraged to be profit-oriented and to become active operators in the training market;

Parents and Guardians

  • Support children and wards to choose the vocational education track;
  • Reject perception that TVET is for the less academically endowed;
  • Lobby politicians in favour of TVET;
  • Support activities of educational institutions and training providers.

Donors and Development Partners

  • Support development and implementation of national TVET policies and strategies;
  • Fund small business development research;
  • Fund acquisition of training equipment;
  • Support post-training employment support services for TVET graduates, including business start-ups;
  • Support capacity building in TVET sector – instructor training, management training, technical assistance, etc.
  • Help in identifying and disseminating best practices in TVET;
  • Support TVET advocacy initiatives, motivation campaigns and programmes.


  • Deliver workplace training to employees
  • Contribute financially to national training fund
  • Provide opportunities in industry for TVET teachers to regularly update their workplace experience;
  • Provide opportunities for industrial attachment and internships for trainees
  • Contribute to the development of national skills standards.

8. Conclusion

The promotion of technical and vocational education and training for industrialisation, economic development, wealth creation and poverty eradication demands policies and strategies that address the cross-cutting issues of quality and relevance of training, employability, collaboration between training institutions and employers, accreditation of training providers (in the formal, non-formal and informal sectors), assessment, certification, internal and external quality assurance of training programmes, funding, and instructor training. This calls for a TVET system that is competency-based and employment led, with proficiency testing of learners and trainees as proof of competence. TVET should also be seen and acknowledged by all stakeholders as a valid passport to a well-paid job or self-employment or higher education and not as an alternative educational opportunity fit only for early school leavers, the less academically endowed or the poor.

Finally, the point has to be made that technical and vocational education and training alone by itself does not lead to rapid industrialisation, or provision of jobs or eradication of poverty. Good government policies do all three. National governments therefore, need to create an economic environment that promotes the growth of enterprises and generally stimulates the economy. When businesses develop and expand, additional labour-market demands for technical and vocational training emerge, and new job and further training opportunities are created to trace and light the path of industrialisation. For this to happen on a sustainable basis, however, the TVET system must be labour-market relevant, equitable, efficient, and of high quality. This is the challenge that African governments and training institutions must rise up to. Are they ready?

List of Abbreviations

ADEA Association for the Development of Education in Africa

BOTA Botswana Training Authority

CBOs Church Based Organisations

CBT Competency Based Training

COMESA Community of East and Southern Africa

COTVET Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training

ECOWAS Economic Community of West African States

FDI Foreign Direct Investment

ICT Information and Communication Technologies

ILO International Labour Organisation

IVTB Industrial and Vocational Training Board

LMIS Labour Market Information System

NGO Non Governmental Organisation

NQF National Qualifications Framework

NVQF National Vocational Qualifications Framework

NVTB National Vocational Training Board

NVTI National Vocational Training Institute

SADC Southern Africa Development Community

TEVETA Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training

TVET Technical and Vocational Education and Training

UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

VETA Vocational Education and Training Authority


[1] Dr. Afeti is Secretary General of the Commonwealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA) and a TVET consultant to the African Union.

[2] World Bank (1991): "Vocational and technical education and training" A World Bank policy paper. Washington, DC.

[3] D. Bloom, D. Canning and K. Chan (2006): "Higher Education and Economic Development in Africa", The World Bank, Africa Region Human Development, Working Paper Series – No. 102.

[4] Atchoarena, D and Andre Delluc (2002): "Revisiting technical and vocational education in Sub-Saharan Africa". IIEP-UNESCO, Paris.

[5] Johanson, R.K and A.V. Adams (2004): "Skills Development in Sub-Saharan Africa". The World Bank. Washington DC.

[6] World Bank (2000): "African Development Indicators 2000". The World Bank. Washington DC.

[7] Ghana Statistical Service (2000): "2000 Population and Housing Census". Accra, Ghana.

[8] Johanson and Adams (2004): Ibid

[9] Johanson , R.K and A.V. Adams (2004): Ibid

[10] Kitaev et al. (2002) cited in Johnson and Adams (2004).

[11] Johanson and Adams (2004): Ibid

[12] Johanson and Adams (2004): Ibid


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