The Government has come up with a tailor-made plan to extend technical and vocational training programmes to unemployed graduates to equip them with skills that are more responsive to the labour market, officials have said.
Fresh TVET graduates stand a better chance of getting employed or creating their own jobs compared to their counterparts from the conventional education system, with recent figures from the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) showing that as many as 73 per of TVET graduates were getting employed within six months of their graduation.
A recent national TVET graduates traceability study also indicated that 75 per cent of employers were satisfied with the performance of graduates.
While National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda’s 2013/14 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4) put the national unemployment rate at 2 per cent, it showed that as many as 13.5 per cent university graduates were unemployed, a situation officials say they hope to improve through empowering this segment of youth with post-graduation hands-on skills.
“We are seeing a gradual shift in mindset with more and more university graduates showing interest in acquiring TVET skills and we have already conducted a pilot training programme that attracted many university graduates,” Jerome Gasana, WDA director-general, told The New Times yesterday.
He said they target university graduates who have spent between one and two years (after their graduation) without a job, adding that the programme is currently free of charge.
The tailor-made courses, he added, are being offered under the recently rolled out Kora-Wigire (loosely translated to mean ‘work and sustain yourself’) scheme, a flagship project of the National Employment Program (NEP) that seeks to help the country create at least 200,000 off-farm jobs each year.
Officials say they have noticed a positive trend whereby university graduates are increasingly realising the importance of technical and vocational education and training (TVET)-aligned skills and are enrolling for such courses.
Awareness campaign at varsities
Olivier Rwamukwaya, the state minister in charge of TVET, said the Government was sensitising more university graduates to embrace technical and vocational courses to enhance their chances of getting employed or as a gateway to self-employment since they would be equipped with hands-on skills.
“We are noticing some encouraging trend whereby the youths who have completed tertiary education and are yet to get jobs are joining TVET centres to acquire practical skills, and we are looking at how we can broaden this to cover as many unemployed graduates as possible,” he said.
The drive, he said, is in response to the relatively high unemployment rate among varsity graduates.
Abudallah Nzabandora, the NEP coordinator at WDA, said, so far, 300 university graduates had completed the short-term TVET courses, which were conducted at different TVET institutions across the country.
The four-month courses, he said, were piloted at Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC) Kigali, IPRC-West, IPRC-South, IPRC-East, Musanze Polytechnic, ESA-Nyagahanga in Gatsibo, EAVE Kabutare in Huye, and Mpanda VTC in Ruhango.
Nzabandora said most of the university graduates trained in culinary art, food processing, multimedia, and automobile, adding that WDA will increasingly grow the list of courses and modules offered depending on the requests of the applicants and the country’s priorities.
Nzabandora said, at the moment, another 200 university graduates were attending similar training at different locations, adding that WDA and NEP would continue to identify new training centres across the country.
Some university graduates, he added, have undertaken industry-based training, including in textile and construction firms.
Reuben Tuyizere, a former rural development student from UNILAK, is one of the graduates that have embraced TVET.
Having spent years looking for a job in vain, he said, he decided to undertake a five-month hands-on training in construction early this year and he’s already reaping the benefits.
“I was tired walking from one place to another looking for a job. I decided enough was enough and wanted to acquire hands-on skills, and that’s when I sought training at NPD Contraco (a local construction firm), which I did in five months. I acquired skills in cobblestone technology, including stone quarrying, cutting and laying, and today, I’m testimony of how TVET can impact life,” he told The New Times.
Tuyizere said, after realising how the newly acquired skills were changing his life, several of his friends (university graduates) also enrolled for TVET courses. “The skills I have acquired through TVET have opened doors,” he said.
Nzabandora cited a case of one of their recent trainees who had done accounting in university and later trained in culinary art under the ‘Kora-Wigire’ scheme and was now a top manager in one of the local hotels.
“He had failed to get a job but he was immediately snapped up as soon as he completed the TVET course,” he said.
Nzabandora said all the five IPRCs across the country were currently receiving applications from fresh university graduates who wish to acquire hands-on skills to boost their employability potential.
Addressing members of the senatorial standing committee in charge of social affairs recently, business leaders said university education alone was no guarantee for graduates to get jobs since they are often lacking in terms of hands-on skills.
“There is need for more skills among the youth, we need to get as many of them as possible really skilled,” Benjamin Gasamagera, chairperson of the Private Sector Federation, said.
Previously, former University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology students in Micro Biology petitioned government seeking further training in laboratory skills to increase their chances of getting employed.
The former students also claimed that the course they had studied was not relevant on the local market and, therefore, needed support to acquire skills that were more responsive to the market.
The Government says it wants more learners to choose TVET path as opposed to the conventional education system that ends with a university degree.