The first cohort of 23 trainees of the Dual Apprenticeship System in the Microfinance Sector in Rwanda graduated Friday and are now equipped with employability skills to make them competitive in the microfinance sector. The Dual Apprenticeship System programme is a joint project implemented by Rwanda Institute of Cooperatives, Entrepreneurship and Microfinance (RICEM), Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR) with the support of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Sparkassenstiftung für internationale Kooperation (Sparkassen Foundation for International Cooperation – SBFIC). The apprentices have graduated after an intensive 12 months of theoretical and in-company training. The programme will be rolled out after two pilot intakes that ran between February 2017 and March 2020, according to officials. Whereas in the first intake apprentices were junior employees of microfinance institutions, in the second pilot all trainees have been fresh graduates from higher learning institutions and held a degree in subjects related to microfinance such as economics; accounting or finance. Prospective beneficiaries have been selected through RDB. The benefits of the Dual Apprenticeship System in the microfinance sector include improvement of employability and productivity of the employees which in turn boosts the performance of the sector. According to Dr. Olivier Mukulira, the Managing Director of RICEM the Dual Apprenticeship System integrates a combination of theoretical and workplace learning, where the apprentices spend four days per week at the workplace (the MFI) and one day at the training academy. He said that the programme is packaged in such a way that the theoretical part takes 20 per cent of the time for the apprentice and the rest is practical. At the training academy, all apprentices undertake six different modules: “These include general overview of microfinance, cashiering management and professional customer care, loan granting and loan management, accounting, marketing, as well as internal audit and control. “In parallel to the theoretical classes, all apprentices receive practical training in the different departments of the hosting institution (the MFI). In the MFIs, experienced in-company trainers, often heads of department, deliver practical training to the apprentices. After 12 months of intense theoretical and practical training in all six areas, apprentices are certified as Microfinance Professionals” he explained. So far, 19 graduates of the programme have been certified as Microfinance Professionals. The next intake of the Dual Apprenticeship System in the Microfinance Sector will start in early 2021, according to the officials. “We are about to receive another intake. We take graduates from across the country who are unemployed. We will work with RDB to deploy fresh graduates as well as junior employees already working in microfinance institutions,” he said. Most of the apprentices who are placed in MFIs are retained even after graduation, according to Mukulira. RICEM provides modules and trains the apprentices, Sparkassen Foundation provides technical support, AMIR conducts mobilization and advocacy while RDB comes in to support in the apprentices’ recruitment and meeting apprenticeship remuneration within the framework of the RDB’s Professional Internship Programme. Aimable Nkuranga, Executive Director of AMIR, lauded all partners in implementing the programme, saying that it will have a significant impact on the development of the microfinance sector in the country. “As practitioners from the microfinance sector, we were able to witness the benefits of this program. We hope that the skills that graduates got from this program are going to help them to get employment very soon,” he said during the graduation of the cohort on Friday. Maria Knappstein, the Country Director of Sparkassen Foundation urged the graduates to use their skills to further develop the microfinance sector. “This is a comprehensive intervention that we are having as partner organizations implementing the programme here in Rwanda. With these skills, graduates will contribute to the professionalization of the microfinance sector,” she said. She said that in the future, more institutions in Kigali and outside Kigali will be given chances to train more apprentices. Francois Ngoboka, the Acting Director of Capacity Development and Employment at RDB said that the microfinance sector has played a big role in financial inclusion and with the program, it will continue to play a critical role in the socio-economic development of Rwanda. “The Dual Apprenticeship System is the way to go. It is key in performance of all sectors and particularly in the professionalization of microfinance institutions,” he said. Speaking at the graduation, Samuel Kamugisha, the Director-General of Industry and Entrepreneurship Development at the Ministry of Trade and Industry said that the programme will increase competitiveness of the private sector, especially of microfinance institutions. “The Dual Apprenticeship System will positively impact the sectors as it improves the service of microfinance institutions and help them to grow more,” he said. Clement Niyomugabo who spoke on behalf of the graduates praised the skills support. “We are ready to put skills into practice. We will not let any skills go to waste. We have been trained for a year. We are ready to serve the microfinance sector and develop it to global standards because we have the required skills.” Trainees of the Dual Apprenticeship System in the Microfinance Sector in Rwanda during the graduation ceremony. Ariane Nayituliki, the Dual Apprenticeship Advisor at SBFIC. Aimable Nkuranga, the Executive Director of AMIR. Dr. Mukulira Olivier, the Managing Director of Rwanda Institute of Cooperatives Entrepreneurship and Microfinance (RICEM). Inga Klunder-Preuss, second secretary in the German Embassy. Francois Ngoboka, head of targeted labour market interventions in RDB. Maria Knappstein, Country Director Rwanda of Sparkassen Foundation For International Cooperation. The Dual Apprenticeship Advisor at SBFIC. Samuel Kamugisha, Director General of Industry and Entrepreneurship in MINICOM.