The five-year programme is funded by the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) of the President of the United States through that country’s Agency for International Development (USAID). It’s one to watch!
On the upside…
• Eighty per cent of participants this week shared the view that vocational trainings are a very valid option for gaining practical work experience. They prepare trainees for jobs that are based on manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic, and equip them with tangible relevant skills. One such example came from the Advanced Business Community (ABC), a student community established in 2007 at the faculty of commerce of Cairo University. Its aim is “to reduce the gap between the theoretical teachings at Egypt's commercial colleges and the practical world.”
• One of the participants from Malindi in Kenya, 26-year-old Ayshah, informed us that, “high school drop-outs” present a big challenge in her town. According to Ayshah, “the Digital Opportunity Trust (TOT), as well as [the United States Agency for International Development] USAID Aphia II Kenya initiative, offer training to marginalized youth who are trained as ambassadors of change… I have seen such training making a difference,” she told us, “in terms of them being role models and trying to find ways to sustain themselves in a positive manner.”
• Yasymn, 24, from Guadeloupe informed us that, there: “you get vocational training from the age of 16 and you get a diploma in practical skills 2-3 years later.” She commented that this is largely positive and that she has seen her peers grow more confident and independent because this system enables students to follow their chosen career paths, which may be outside of traditional curricula. She has seen peers, aged 18, securing employment in the vocations they studied.
• Germany was cited as a leading example in terms of integrating apprenticeships into education by Steffi, 29, from Germany. Typically, students enter a two- to three-year apprenticeship at the end of secondary education, with rotating periods between technical college and working in a company. Steffi went on to say that:
“The German model of apprenticeship programmes is the result of strong commitments negotiated through tripartite social dialogue and is part of the wider German industrial relations and social security system (the apprentice and employer contribute to the social security system and the apprentice is covered by wider collective agreements, etc.). So, in this case, vocational training can lead to decent employment. But with the increase in ‘flexible’ employment practices (outsourcing, etc.) and short‐term orientation and economic transformations over the past decades, we can also witness a shift towards a two‐tiered system for young workers in Germany: there are those who enter apprenticeships after school and will probably get a decent job, and those who are either unemployed or part of Germany's growing low‐wage and precarious sector… ("McJobs"). So, if we look at ideas for other countries, we need to take into account that vocational training is always part of a bigger employment picture, including cultural and political values and the wider economic structure.”
On the down side…
• Most participants shared the view that vocational trainings are not always easily available or accessible. Governments could do more to inform and reach out to diverse sections of youth populations.
• Vocational trainings are not always valued by employers. There remains some stigma, and they are often perceived as an opportunity for young people who do not have the capability to follow traditional academic pathways.
• Several participants commented that opportunities for vocational training (or access to information about them) remain limited and scare, and that such training does not necessarily lead to decent and well-paid employment.
• Furthermore, Roger from Ghana told us that, “many young people, particularly the poorest, are starting work too early without the basic skills that could make them marketable. Students are completing secondary schools without having the skills that allow them to adapt to changes in the labour market.”
Gaining vocational experience in a post-conflict environment…
Anna, 22, from the United States told us her story:
“In 2010, I had the opportunity to conduct research in Gulu, Uganda. While working in the area, I was able to gain a better understanding of the manner in which conflict impacted the community. The deep‐seated impact of the war was visible not only in the economic and political spheres but also in the intangible, societal dynamics of the community. After working with several community members, however, I was also able to see the way in which the war highlighted the strength and determination of the community to recover from such far‐reaching devastation. From that point forward, I decided to dedicate my studies to working with communities in conflict and reconciliation in order to help translate such resiliency into reconstruction. I also learned that, while grounding education in an academic context can be beneficial, experiential learning is also crucial to gain an accurate understanding of a situation or issue. I thus hope to continue my education by attempting to understand conflict from an academic standpoint while working to complement this knowledge base with real world experience.”