Skilling Youth Should be a National Priority                 

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As Uganda aspires to achieve middle-income status envisioned in its National Development Plan II and Vision 2040, the need for a skilled workforce becomes a priority.

Substantial progress and gains are being made to prioritize skilling of the youth across the country. The government launched the Business Technical Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) Strategic Plan to champion skills development in the country.

Under this, President Museveni has made it a key priority to address unemployment through skilling and empowering the youth. Recently, 8480 female youths benefited from the Presidential Initiative on Skilling the Girl Child.

These vibrant youth who were passed out from the July, December 2018 Intake have successfully completed their training and obtained skills in bakery, hairdressing, knitting, tailoring and shoemaking.

This strategy spans from 2011 to 2020 with the aim of creating employable skills and competencies relevant to the labor market. This will help in dealing with the issue of rising unemployment in Uganda.

To achieve this, $870 million has been earmarked to roll out vocational education across the country. Shs433 billion (39%), of the entire BTVET recurrent budget, is allocated for bursaries to support school leavers attending formal BTVET programs.

It is also expected that 40% of the entire BTVET student population shall receive a public scholarship to enable increased enrollment in the near future.

Despite an increase in government’s commitment to support vocational education, key questions arise, how do we adopt these reforms into the formal educational institutions in the country?, BTVET policy is reforming but not fast enough with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) advancements, how do we cope  with the changing needs of the labor market?.

Uganda must act now in order to adapt to its young workforce to the changing needs of the employment landscape. Uganda, for instance, needs a skilled labor force to manage IT systems to construct and maintain roads, buildings, railways, and bridges.

The key intervention, investing in vocational training will increase the pace at which the workforce acquires essential skills to maximize the benefits of the country’s economic transformation.

Labour remains a major economic growth driver for Uganda as a country. Jobs remain the primary mechanism for distributing income and providing citizens with access to the economy.

This is true in Uganda’s emerging job markets where poverty remains a problem, rates of unemployment are high and the social security blanket is thin. To tackle these prevailing issues, Uganda’s government alongside the private sector will have to prioritize Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) education as an important tool for the country’s economic growth and development.

TVET focuses on practical applications of skills learned and is intended to prepare trainees to become effective professionals in a specific vocation. It also equips trainees with a broad range of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are indispensable for meaningful participation in work and life.

If TVET is appropriately leveraged, Uganda’s vast reservoir of its youth demographic potential can become a growth engine for its economy. This will enhance young people’s capabilities to effectively navigate the complex waters of adulthood.

Currently, Uganda is plagued by rising graduate youth unemployment as a result of the high number of new entrants into the labor market. This does not correspond with the number of jobs created annually.

This problem could be attributed to Uganda’s flawed educational system which emphasizes theoretical education devoid of practical skills and training needed for the job market, leading to limited job creation.

Training individuals to be technically skilled mechanics, engineers, shoemakers, and garment makers, among other professions increases a country’s competitiveness globally. Currently, Uganda is taking on the advantage of locally produced materials to the international market.

As a matter of fact, countries with well-established TVET systems tend to enjoy lower youth unemployment something the Ugandan government through the wise leadership of H.E the President.

Technical and vocational training centers still suffer from under-funding, obsolete and inadequate training equipment, and tools. Parents should change their attitude and enroll children in skills development. Grandaunts should learn to do something as they look for jobs and not blaming the government all the time.

There is also need for closer dialogue between education providers and the job industry to align and optimize Uganda’s demand and supply of skills. If this is done, unemployment among young people will be history in our country.

The writer is a Communications Assistant at Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.

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