The first ever exhibition of products manufactured; processed or handmade in Rwanda was officially opened Friday 9th December 2011 at Gikondo Expo Ground, organized jointly by the Private Sector Federation (PSF) and Workforce Development Authority (WDA).
The Minister of Education, Dr Vincent Biruta, while presiding at the official opening of the weeklong Technical products Exhibition at Gikondo Friday, said that the promotion of technical skills through the Private Public Partnership (PPP) program fits well in the Government Priorities. As such, he pledged continued government support.
The second pillar of Vision 2020 is: Human resource development and knowledge-based economy. And, in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), developing skills for a knowledge-based society is one of the twelve set targets.
The TVET program, aims at developing employable skills in the country—bringing together stakeholders engaged in employment creation and skills development in Rwanda.
The expo, running until Monday December 12, is a platform for companies, training institutions among other stakeholders involved in promoting technical skills.
The expo is multi-sectoral, organised under; hospitality and tourism, construction and building services, ICT, Technical Manufacturing and Services, Agriculture and Food Processing, Art. Artisans and Craft, Beauty and Esthetics, Renewable Energy and Water management. A total of about 120 exhibitors are participating in the expo, and will throughout the week be marketing and selling products and services, networking and sharing experiences.
Alongside the expo, PSF organized a one day symposium on Thursday December 8—bringing together over 200 participants; largely partners in the TVET system, including, public and private sector, donors and civil society organisations.
It was the first ever opportunity where TVET stakeholders met to discuss issues of technical skills development.
On the part of PSF, in its regular “issues solicitization” through a consultative process with the private sector to inform its advocacy and capacity building agenda, it emerged that Rwanda generally lacks employable technical skills in key economic sectors such as; services, tourism and hospitality, construction, and manufacturing.
In her speech at the official opening of TVET expo, the PSF acting CEO Yvette Mukarwema reported that surveys conducted among PSF members indicate that majority of employees in technical positions are foreigners; citing; construction, Hotel, Saloons, Garages, Media and Public Relations and so on. “Members believe that this is not sustainable and is quite expensive—especially considering the amount of money that ends up repatriated”, she analysed. She added that because of limited employable skills on the market, members asked PSF to partner with stakeholders like TVET schools to improve their curricula so they can produce graduates with competitive employable skills
The issue of skills development in Rwanda is pertinent, premised on the findings in the National Skills Audit report by the Public Sector Capacity Building Secretariat (PSCBS)—which indicates skills gaps across all sectors of the economy. The report estimates the skills gap at well over 70 per cent, mainly attributed to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed a significant percentage of the workforce in the country. Quite critical also, the education system that churns out graduates with insufficient employable skills.
The Government established the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) in 2007, to build sustainable institutional and operational framework to enhance skills development—especially to the benefit of the private sector; in terms of availing competitive employable skills on the market. Thus, WDA’s major partner in this the Private Sector Federation (PSF)—the umbrella body and voice of the business community in Rwanda.
TVET is one of PSF’s annual flagship events that is jointly elaborated with WDA. The programme involves several components, including the “internship programme” which involves placing TVET graduates in companies and public institutions for at least six months to acquire employable skills. All the financial support required to run TVET programme at PSF is provided by the Netherlands Embassy in Rwanda.
The Symposium: Limited Awareness,
At the symposium, institutions; public and private, development partners and civil society organization had the opportunity to present what they are doing to promote skills development in Rwanda. In addition, it was a moment to share experiences and also table issues that impede skills development in general and TVET (program) in particular.
Clearly, as the Education Minister observed in his key note speech, there is need for a more aggressive and sensitization TVET campaign. Jerome Gasana the Director General of WDA reported that; compared to how the program started three years ago, there is now some improvement in terms of awareness.
Earlier, at the symposium, stakeholders decried of poor mindset among Rwandans about Technical and Vocational Training—majority citing parents who regard TVET training as a window for school failures, and employers (companies) who regard (TVET) graduates as uncompetitive.
As though various TVET partnerships between public and private sector, donors and civil society organisations now exist, there is still a lot to be done to make them work efficiently. In his presentation Dr. George Heidenreich, Director of Programme Eco-Emploi, GIZ Rwanda cited “stakeholder coordination”, especially on specific TVET programs like Industrial Attachment as one of the major challenges.
Lead TVET institutions; WDA and PSF will carry the cross of enhancing stakeholders’ coordination. Didier Munezero, the Director of Partnership Building at WDA remarks: “The scope of skills development is too wide to be achieved by WDA and PSF alone, it is therefore imperative that as partners (Public Institutions, Private Sector and Civil Society Agencies) coordinate to succeed”.
Dr Marcus Powell, Director of Centre for Employment Initiatives while sharing best practices from Egypt, Botswana and South Africa advised that the TVET framework requires both joined-up thinking, and incentives to attract effective participation. As an incentive, the Government (through WDA) has established the Skills Development Fund (SDF) that provides financial support in the form of grants to TVET providers for rapid skills delivery.
Exhibitors Speak out
The New Times spoke to some exhibitors on their individual perceptions about TVET program and the benefits of (TVET) expo initiative.
Sanjeev Moudgil, the CEO of MSV Technologies, a private ICT firm said: “Suppliers, which are TVET schools, need to work with us. They need to understand the nature of skills we need. Unfortunately we rarely get chance to harmonize our expectations. Stakeholders forums and exhibitions are important platforms to achieve this”.
Emmanuel Musoni, the Marketing Officer of Akagera Group, a local consortium of motor vehicle sales and repairs and domestic (Sumsang) electronic sales said: “we regularly participate in expos organized by PSF, but this is special because we’re specifically speaking to our partners—companies we normally work with in technical and engineering aspects. We are talking to consumers of our products, and selling as well”.
Sina Gerald, a mogul, the proprietor of Enterprise Uribwitso, an agro-processing business is exhibiting a variety products and restaurant services. “In the hospitality and manufacturing sector we still lack competitive Rwandans to employ. We hope these wonderful (skills development) government and PSF initiatives will in the near future be a solution to this challenge”
Janvier Hareramungu of IPRC –Kicukiro Campus, one of the TVET schools exhibiting called for improved coordination between IPRCs across the country and stakeholders
A sales attendant at Equity Bank stand, who preferred anonymity, said: “Equity has just entered the Rwandan market. The TVET framework is quite encouraging because we have a lot of exciting banking products that can benefit (TVET) graduates, across all sectors. We are a bank that encourages innovation”.