BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA
A Challenging environment for the labour sector
Vision 2020 represents an ambitious plan to raise the people of Rwanda out of poverty and transform the country into a middle-income economy.
For Rwanda to compete effectively in the global economy, the country’s labour sector will have to undergo some sort of realignment to meet the needs of making the economic transformation.
Currently the Government of Rwanda is involved in the process of developing Sector Strategies to implement EDPRS programs.
As stated in the Country ’ s Vision 2020 one of the identified development Pillars is Human Resource Development.
The Government places a high premium on the development of human capital with the necessary knowledge and skills, as a vehicle for social economic development and as one of the several measures to achieve Vision 2020 and the Economic Development Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) goals.
Identifying the Gaps
The results from a recent independent evaluation of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 1 (PRSP 1) revealed that capacity constraints especially those related to inadequate skills constitute a major impediment to the realization of PRSP 1 set targets.
The results of this evaluation prompted several initiatives such as the establishment of the Human Resource Institutional Capacity Development Agency (HIDA) with a mandate to address capacity building at institutional level and the establishment of the former Rwanda Workforce Development Authority (RWoDA).
Moreover, it has also prompted a thorough review of the structure of the education system, particularly the TVET system, with an aim of realigning the two to the goals of EDPRS and Vision 2020.
WDA is also charged to guide, coordinate and regulate Vocational Training in the country to provide Quality Assurance.
TVET system in Rwanda is being re-organised to produce manpower with the necessary skills to meet the needs of industry.
To this end a task force was formed to review the existing system and recommend changes through which the system would be made more effective and efficient in meeting the needs of industry, in accordance with Vision 2020 and EDPRS.
Institutions of higher learning for instance are to place an emphasis on industrial attachment and practical work in their courses.
Therefore, there is a need to devise and implement policies as well as mobilize resources to bring about the necessary transformation to achieve the Vision.
Workforce Development Authority Mission statement
WDA’s vision is to become a regional centre of excellence in workforce development and its mission is to promote, facilitate, and guide the development and upgrading of skills and competencies of the national workforce in order to enhance competitiveness and employability.
Its activities and scope of services is being organized and managed around five strategic pillars including skills development through technical and vocational education and training, business incubation, labour market information systems, setting industry standards, regulation and accreditation.
The philosophy behind WDA is that of a demand led competency-based skills development. This philosophy shall ensure that all curricula that are implemented under the WDA framework arises out of need of the employers and the curricula would have gone through thorough consultation with employers concerning the skills needs.
Labour market constrains
Frail institutional capacity within public governance remains insufficient due to lack of sound institutions and competent personnel. Rather than develop sound systems themselves, past governments continued to rely on foreign technical assistance that was both costly, largely indifferent to domestic long term needs and failed to build local capacities.
The same applies to Rwanda ’ s private sector. For it to be developed special attention will be paid to the labour market.
The Rwandan economy has been able to generate only 200,000 jobs outside agriculture. The population is projected to reach 13 million by 2020, of which 7 million people will be earning a living on off-farm activities.
Therefore, it will be necessary to create 1.4 million jobs outside agriculture. Given the trends of the Rwandan economy over the past decades, this is clearly a huge challenge, in which the private sector needs to play a pivotal role.
In this light the capacities of all actors is being strengthened to enable them to perform their tasks more effectively.
At the heart of this component lies the reform of the vocational training system so that it is better geared to the needs of the labour market.
An essential element of this is the support provided to the Rwandan partners in developing and implementing a Labour Market Information System (LAMIS),through the capacity development inputs provided to the responsible ministries, the employers ’ association and to enterprises.
The programme is helping implement economic strategies and develop the requisite professional competences.
Taking a multi-level and multi-sectoral approach, the emphasis is on promoting growth and on developing workforce skills in the areas of business and export through labour market initiatives and vocational training.
It is through this mechanism of employer driven and employer consultation that the workforce will have the right skills competent to perform the job that they are hired to do.
WDA will focus on implementing investment –driven training, entrepreneurship-driven training, productivity/service driven training and agricultural driven training.
Another mandate for WDA embraces demand-led competency-based modular training courses for skills development, entrepreneurship framework to encourage self employment, establish a self –sustaining workforce development in Rwanda and establish a framework for implementation of workforce development in five regional centres.
Another crucial pillar of WDA is the establishment and implementation of a labour market information system(LMIS).
The establishment of a reliable LMIS which is expected to provide all the necessary information leading to the preparation of training modules that responds to changes in labour market in order to march industrial requirements with relevant skills supply.
It ’ s also expected to address the current mismatch of skills between what is being produced by the TVET institutions and what is needed by the labour market.
Major activities of LMIS involves collecting, analyzing, reporting and publishing of data on economic activities to describe and predict the relationship between labour demand and supply.
Identification of key skill areas demanded by the economy will be informed by the Private Sector.There are also moves towards promoting efficiency of the public higher education sector through optimising the use of resources such as lecturers, learning materials and science laboratories.
Tackling low level of HR development
The severe shortage of professional personnel constitutes an obstacle to the development of all sectors.
Lack of adequately trained people in priority sectors hampers modernisation, whilst a shortage of technicians and competent managers severely constraints the expansion of the secondary and tertiary sectors.
However, appropriate phasing out and eventual exit strategies for expatriate teachers will be put in place, so that capacity is built among Rwandan nationals to develop courses and conduct teaching and research at high levels.
A joint curriculum development with industry practitioners including hospitality and tourism , electronics servicing, plumbing, electrical installation was completed.
The Private Sector is also expected to play a central role in the future expansion and quality of higher education in Rwanda.
The Education Sector is set to contribute towards economic growth by making education more relevant for social and economic progress.
This will be achieved by the establishment of a curriculum that imparts basic skills in traditional subjects, while also promoting social cohesion and making closer links between the content of education and the needs of the labour market.
Education sector reform
The specific aims of higher education are to achieve priorities which include achieving enrolment growth and gender equity; restructuring of academic and administrative units; ensuring the quality and relevance of undergraduate programmes; building the capacity of learning resources; development of post-graduate studies; capacity-building within research and development, and innovation; capacity- building within community services and continuing education; achieving financial sustainability; and building ICT capacity.
Current policy aims to increase the proportion of girls in the relevant age group sitting and passing national exams at all levels of education.
In particular, efforts will be made to encourage girls to study science and technology subjects. Programmes will be developed to sensitise teachers, parents and education managers to promote girls ’ education.
The priority areas for the Education Sector in Rwanda are to increase the coverage and quality of nine year basic education, strengthen Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and improve the quality of higher education.
An ongoing programme will equip all 2,200 primary schools in the country with a science corner to promote fundamental information about science.
It is a high priority to provide high quality Science and Technology teaching at secondary level in schools equipped to undertake practical lessons.
The curriculum is being revised to include new subjects, such as entrepreneurial skill development, which should enhance the employability of pupils once they leave school.
Revamping Vocational training
The government recognizes the essential role of TVET in the future economic growth of Rwanda. The TVET system aims to ensure the matching of skills to labour market and society needs.
One key initiative is to set up a TVET board to co-ordinate all public and private stakeholders to ensure the provision of outcomes-based TVET as well as to co-ordinate the TVET strategy with economic and district development strategies.
To this end, high quality Vocational and Technical Training Centres will be established complete with a business enterprise unit which will match the students of the schools with employment opportunities.
This will also include an industrial attachment programme at all levels of technical education. Priority areas for improving TVET include creating a merit-based approach based on recognition and rewards for quality work, establishing mechanisms to provide effective follow-up support, providing job placement services for trainees, promoting self employment as a productive means of earning a living as well as requiring training institutions and programmes to prioritise the skills needs of the Informal Sector.
A strategic master plan for vocational education and training will be elaborated to address these issues. An appropriate institutional framework for TVET will ensure continuous training which responds to the ever changing labour market demands and the flow of new technologies.
A drive towards a knowledge based economy
A drive to knowledge-based economy will entail raising the general welfare of the population while attempting to improve the quality and the professional thrust within the education and health services which will be used to build a productive and efficient workforce.
This will be essential for Rwanda to become a sophisticated knowledge- based economy. Further still Rwanda is committed to attaining ‘a Universal Education for All’ .
Some of the key indicators of Vision 2020 states that the rate of qualification of teachers was 20% by 2000 but projections are set that by 2020 this is projected to hit 100%. By 2000 the labour market had created 200,000 off farm jobs only.
The EDPRS and Vision2020 framework projections are set at 500,000 and 1,400,000 off farm jobs respectively. Thus task of uplifting the current skill levels within Rwanda’s labour market from the current situation is a challenging undertaking.
It requires a strong political will from all stakeholders if the goals of Vision2020 is to be achieved.
Tackling the challenges
Currently Rwanda is making a shift towards vocational and technical training especially in the fields of technology, engineering and management.
This will be targeted at secondary school leavers, as well as various sections of society. To encourage skills development, micro-credit schemes will be promoted specifically to extend finance to self-employed young technicians.
Special emphasis will be given to innovative, small-scale entrepreneurs.
To promote efficiency and continuous upgrading of skills, appropriate programs will be launched in the national institutions aimed at on-the-job training, in-service training and distant learning.
Rwanda lags behind in professional training, with the most acute deficiency being apparent in the fields of applied and natural sciences and ICT.
Although the country will continue to rely on imported technology from advanced countries, well-trained, specialised nationals will be essential to run as well as maintain technological systems ranging from medicine and agriculture to industry and telecommunications.
Absolutely crucial for achieving Vision2020 will be the need to properly link education policies, with sector development and labour policies.
It is also crucial to understand that the investment needed for the development of the secondary and tertiary sectors, will not be effective without a skilled labour force.
Establishing Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centres (IPRCs)
WDA will establish five Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centres (IPRCs), one in each province and one in Kigali, bringing the total number of such centres in the country to five.
The IPRCs will uniquely offer Diploma (A1), Technical Certificate (A2) and Vocational training, all within each centre.
It is proposed that all the existing ETOs will become Polytechnic Campuses (PCs) and will continue to offer A2 courses in a revised syllabi designed with a higher practical content in order to meet the needs of employers in the country.
The Campuses will also offer vocational training, in addition to offering A2 courses. The PCs will in addition start offering informal vocational training within their respective catchments.
Curriculum Development Centres will assist WDA HQ in the curriculum development process. The centres will further assist the WDA HQ to identify skills that are needed critically in the country and are not served by existing training programs.
Urgent plans for 2009 in line with this philosophy, will see more efforts being focused on training the trainers in pedagogy and technical skills.
Around 500 are scheduled to under go such training. It is also planned that four training centers for practical training facilities be established under public institutions.