By Dennis Katungi
On 24th August 2017, the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development (MGLSD) launched a Draft National Apprenticeship Framework for Uganda. It was a follow up on a presidential directive given on 27th September 2016, during sectoral briefings, when the President directed that the apprenticeship framework should be prioritized. He instructed the Minister for Gender and her team to work with the Ministry of Education especially on Quality Assurance to deliver the programe in the shortest possible time.
Consquently, MGLSD prepared a Cabinet Memo outlining the green jobs with a component of structured apprenticeship programme which was given a go ahead. The International Labour Organisation accepted to support the programme and work began in earnest.
‘Apprenticeship’ is a unique form of vocational education, combining on the job work-based learning and school-based training, for specific competencies and work processes. In the case of Uganda, it will target unemployed school dropouts, school leavers & University graduates with a view to deliver employment and skills development. It will aim to address skills shortages on a sectoral basis as well as encourage enterprise in work based learning.
Analysis of the key Labour market performance statistics for Uganda shows that total population, labour force, employment & Gross Domestic Product have been growing over the years albeit at varying rates. As the population grows, so does the labour force.
Employment creation – especially for the youth has remained an issue of critical concern globally. Under SDG 8, Governments are required to promote sustained full and productive employment for their citizens especially the youth. At the continental level, Africa agenda 2063 aspires among others to be a continent whose development is people driven, relying on the potential of its people, especially the youth and women in gainful employment.
Uganda has appropriately positioned employment at the core of her development agenda, particularly in Vision 2040 which recognizes that a large youthful labour force that is inadequately skilled is one of the factors constraining the country’s development process. Equally, the second National Development Plan places emphasis on the need to develop and operationsise a strategy to promote youth employment for economic participation – more so, in re-skilling the youth for self-employment.
Uganda boasts of a youthful population of about 8.million by 2014 & an estimated 78% of the population below 30 years of age. The implication of this – is that Uganda is poised to benefit from the demographic dividend, if the country invests in improving the quality of its human capital.
At the Launch, MGSLD invited all key stake holders to delve into the draft frame work and have input, a process that will enrich the Cabinet brief in the near future. In the framework, there is a role for employers, the Ministry of Education, Workers Organisations, Development partners and the Apprentices themselves.
I shared my observations at this meeting: The undergraduates we come across seeking Internships, the graduates seeking employment appear on the whole to have a mismatch of skill-sets. Even where skills are present, the employability levels, the communication & presentation skills of graduates in Uganda are certainly low level. Employers tend to want particular skills plus work experience, graduates complain that they need a foot on the ladder to gain work experience. It’s sort of chicken and egg situation; which one comes first?
In countries like Britain, young people must taste work as part of the School caliculm at age 16. They must spend some months working as part of their education at O’level. In most cases, when they complete that part which is examinable, they never want to stop working. They proceed to do their A’Levels and University Education but they spare time for continuous work because it pays them. Weekends, Night Shifts, College holidays and any other time they are not engaged in classroom work, they deliberately choose to work because, not only would they be earning their upkeep, but they equally gain skills & the all too important work experience. At the end of a University Education, a young person in UK will command at least 4 years of work experience. That means that that specific barrier to employment is removed for graduates.
Something else I have observed through interviewing Interns and fresh graduates in Uganda which is a negative is the combination of lack of confidence and self esteem. You ask a fresh graduate in Uganda if they have ever completed a successful project, normally the answer is in the negative! On average, they are not aware that campaigning to be a school prefect, chairing a debating club, volunteering for Red-Cross or indeed working at a family business during school holidays is material for describing a successful project!
Interview skills: body language, posture, eye-contact with panelists or an interviewer can all determine whether a graduate gets the job or fails! We have a task well cut out for Careers guidance in Uganda.
The writer is the Media Relations Manager at Uganda Media Centre
Dennis Katungi Tweet - @Dennis_Katungi