By Godfrey Ntagungira
As the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) seeks to position itself strategically so as to competitively spearhead the recently-adopted integrated Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system designed to help achieve the country’s development aspirations embedded in Vision2020 and EDPRS framework, the institution has recently gained a major boost.
On September 16, WDA signed a service agreement with the Singapore Cooperation Agency (SCA) under which the latter will help establish and nurture a competitive TVET system; one that will make a positive impact not only on the national economy, but on the wider region.
WDA Board member Dr Etienne Ntagwirumugara signed for WDA on behalf of the its Chairman of the Board of Directors, Francis Gatare, while SCE Chief Executive Officer, Alphonsus Chia signed on behalf of SCE. Mr Chia led a team of senior SCE officials to Kigali mid last month for the signing of the contract.
Both the Director General of WDA, Dr Jean Damascene Gatabazi, and the Head of Strategy and Policy Unit in the Office of the President, Dr Jean Paul Kimonyo, signed as witnesses to the agreement. Dr Kimonyo signed on behalf of the Human Resource Development Stakeholders Council, a national-level multi-institutional body set up to engineer workforce development programmes in the country.
Under the agreement, SCE will dispatch a team of technical experts to work on a project that will help WDA in the following areas: first, governance and management know-how; second, development of viable TVET systems and processes; and third, training of trainers and managers to spearhead TVET implementation.
The signing of the agreement followed a workshop of members of the Human Resource Development Stakeholders Council during which SCE delegates shared their country’s experience in TVET, and what Rwanda can learn from it. Both events were held at Kigali Serena Hotel.
“In the 1960s Singapore’s economic development was more or less at a stage of what Rwanda is today. Singapore hardly had any TVET system in place.
At that time we were confronted with a high unemployment rate,” observed Mr Low Wong Fook, Director of Singapore Polytechnic International.
“We want to learn from the experience of Singapore because their TVET system has been successful over the years. They have over 50 years of experience in that system,” observed Dr Gatabazi. “When they were starting their TVET system, their GDP per capita was only around $450, but today it’s well over $37,000.”
The contract is worth around $2 million and will be executed over a period of eight months, according to Dr Gatabazi.
The signing ceremony also saw 100 WDA instructors who recently trained in various technical fields in Singapore (90 instructors) and Philippines (10) awarded with certificates.
After returning from Singapore and Philippines, the instructors also attended a training course in vocational pedagogy conducted by Singaporean facilitators. Of the 100 instructors, 80 are based at WDA head office in Remera from where they are dispatched to different areas to train different categories of people, while 20 others are permanently based in different vocational training centres across the country.
The signing and public launch of the Rwanda-Singapore TVET agreement came just a month after a senior Rwandan delegation composed of Dr David Himbara, the Principal Private Assistant to the President and Chairman of the Human Resource Development Stakeholders Council; Dr Jean Paul Kimonyo, Head of Strategy and Policy Unit in the Office of the President; and Dr Gatabazi, visited Singapore to chart the way forward regarding the Singapore-Rwanda workforce development programme.
Speaking to The New Times, Dr Himbara said that the the TVET contract between WDA and SCE will help Rwanda build a critical mass of skilled workers who will be able to develop themselves at the same implementing the country’s socio-economic development agenda.
“Without a workforce, you possibly can’t develop a country because investments wouldn’t sustain without skilled workforce, whether in public or private sector. With this partnership therefore, we are working towards creating such a workforce that doesn’t exist at the moment,” Dr Himbara observed.
Speaking on behalf of the instructors, Sam Barigye, said that the instructors had committed themselves to being the engine of the transformation process in the country’s technical and vocational education.
“We are determined to accelerate the pace of our socioeconomic transformation by imparting the acquired skills and knowledge to the Rwandan people (in the trades we trained in) as we all seek to steer our country’s economy to a middle income category,” Mr Barigye said.
The instructors trained in the following professions: Hospitality (Food and Beverage Service –10, Culinary Art – 10), Automobile Technology – 11, Construction – 11, ICT – 15, Welding –11, Electrical Installation – 11, Plumbing – 11 and Aquaculture – 10).
The Government established WDA to serve as a regulatory agency for technical and vocational training programmes, and to revise TVET curricula in line with the demands of the labour market.
“Our role is to add value to our resources (people) by equipping them through technical and vocational education and training programmes with relevant skills so that they can be competitive and employable.
We must ensure that the skills given to our people through TVET are of required standards, and we are proud to learn from people who have experienced it,” WDA Director General Dr Gatabazi, said in reference to the contract signed with SCE.
Already, WDA is up and running. It has established two of the required five TVET centres of excellence known as Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centres (IPRCs), one in each province and in Kigali City.
“These IPRCs will not only serve as centres of excellence in technical and vocational training, also as extended arm of WDA in terms of regulation and quality assurance,” added Gatabazi, who was appointed to head WDA in April, this year.
WDA unveils hospitality training programme
The Workforce Development Authority (WDA) earlier last week launched twin hospitality training programmes in Rubavu and Musanze districts in the Western and Northern Province, respectively.
The training has attracted a total of 300 participants – 180 of them from Rubavu district and 120 from Musanze district. The programme was officially launched last Tuesday, October 6, at Dian Fossy Nyiramakibiri hotel in Rubavu and Virunga Hotel in Musanze. The training goes on for a whole month.
“We decided to launch our hospitality training programme starting with Rubavu and Musanze specifically because both districts are destinations of different categories of people mainly because they are home to various tourist attractions, WDA Director Dr Jean Damascene Gatabazi, said. “Lately, many hotels are coming up in the districts and owners struggle to get employees.”
He explained that the training covers three programmes, namely; Food and Beverages (F&B), Culinary Art and Front Office operations. “Participants will also train in customer care as a module that cuts across all the three training programmes,” Dr Gatabazi added.
“This is just the beginning of such training programmes. We will extend them to the rest of the country.”
Both the Mayor of Rubavu district, Jean Pierre Twagiramungu and Musanze district Vice Mayor in charge of Economic Affairs, Winfrida Mpembyemungu, said that customer care was a top priority of the Government, and urged the trainees to seize the opportunity and become ambassadors for customer care revolution in the country
Gatabazi said that the training was in line with the institution’s mandate to empower Rwandans with practical hands-on skills to help transform the country’s economy.
“Our country’s key resources are its people. But they (Rwandans) need to be of more value in terms of skills in order to take charge of their own and their country’s destiny,” Dr Gatabazi noted.
Dr Gatabazi noted that WDA wanted to make a contribution towards developing a strong hospitality industry, adding that the country’s recent major leap in the world Doing Business ranking should be repeated in the near future.
In its recent Doing Business report, the World Bank ranked Rwanda as the world’s top business reformer in 2009, jumping from 143rd position last year to 67th from 143rd in 183 countries.
“We are learning from the people who have held the first position in Doing Business in four straight years, and we would like to come much closer to the number one spot in the near future,” Dr Gatabazi said in reference to the recent agreement signed between WDA and Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) – Singapore has held the first position in four consecutive years in Doing Business rankings.
WDA and SCE signed the agreement in Kigali last month under which the latter will help build a competitive Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system in Rwanda.
He said that, like Rwanda, Singapore has no natural resources, but have managed to transform the economy drastically over the past few decades.
Also present at the launch of the training programmes were representatives of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Private Sector Federation (PSF).
This came hot on the heels of a one-week customer care training for 90 hotel and restaurant managers from around Kigali City at La Pallise Hotel in Kigali City. Conducted by WDA instructors, the training was organized in conjunction with Kigali City Council (KCC), RDB and the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Rwanda.