By Nelson Manneh
Stakeholders from ECOWAS member states on Wednesday, 20 September converged at a local hotel in Senegambia, for the validation of ECOWAS’ TEVET draft Action Plan for Skills Improvement and Employability (ETSSIE).
According to stakeholders, member states of ECOWAS share similar and daunting social, economic and political development challenges, resulting to problems of unemployment among the citizenry, particularly young people, as one of their major concerns. According to them, unemployment has become a major factor in fuelling social crisis and conflicts resulting in the general political instability in a region where many sectors vital to development, experience skills shortages which in turn results to rising unemployment.
Stakeholders indicate that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) remains an important tool for eradicating poverty, developing human capital and fostering employability and entrepreneurship among young people.
Professor Abdoulie Maga, who represented the regional body at the event, said unemployment has become a major factor which fuels social crisis, conflicts, resilience and rebellion, terrorism and crime, and general political instability in the region.
“Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is a productive response to these challenges, and will enable learners to acquire practical skills and competencies that meet the present and future needs of the labour market. As such, it is an avenue for promoting the development of nations, social cohesion, enhancing security, poverty reduction and regional integration,” he said.
Maga added that over the years, they conducted series of activities on TVET programs which dovetails into the development of ECOWAS’ Skills Improvement and Employability (ETSSIE), noting that the outcome of their discussion will chart the course for ECOWAS’ progress in ensuring that ‘our’ collective aspirations are translated into actionable plans that foster development, inclusivity and sustainability.
“TVET sub-sector is crucial for the development of markets and demand-driven skills that can thus stimulate entrepreneurial activities and socio-economic development in the region. It is therefore a key element in the development strategy to equip young people with essential vocational skills and employment related competencies, to become self-sufficient, self-dependent and productive,” he said.
Yusupha Touray, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Higher Education who gave a statement on behalf of his Minister, said the formation of human capital in any developing nation has a correlating effect on its national development. He said that the nature of economies is dictated by workforces with the right qualifications and skills from tertiary and higher education.
“This process you embark on today will build our human capital through a very efficient and effective tertiary and higher education training process, and will stimulate growth and lead us to achieving our goals for industrialisation. It is undoubtedly the human resource of a nation that plays a valuable role in the reconstruction of its economy, and a strategy as such underscores our national development,” he said.
PS Touray underscored that the World Bank as discovered in their writings, asserted that this must be supported by cost expansion and reformation of curricula in response to expanding scientific knowledge and changing economic opportunities, and implied that TVET is the answer.
“Workforce planning for socio-economic development in low-income countries is yet to be addressed. Equitable distribution of resources among the sub-sectors of education sector remains a significant challenge, with many parameters to consider. However, some developed nations that addressed these challenges and invested heavily in their TVET sector, managed to transition to higher levels of socio-economic development,” he outlined. Touray said in the face of promoting the country’s education system to shoulder the responsibility of developing an informed skilful workforce, the Government of the Gambia came up with revitalising its National Training Authority, coupled with the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority and aligned the national goals of the country with sound human capital formation practices, and said their convergence is one such endeavour.
According to Touray, an education system that responds to the production needs of key development sectors of the country is yet to be available, and said it is therefore apt to rationalise ‘our’ reform to become a major driver of workforce productivity and a leading imperative for a transition from a low-income to a middle-income economy. He said the implications of the reform have been outlined as credible policy options and implementation strategies in creating an ideal medium that will make possible the provision of an informed policy-making environment, to aid the implementation of the government’s aspirations and policies. He said it is common understanding that there are varying drivers of development, but noted that human capital is a robust determinant of growth, even though policies aimed at addressing skills gaps should commensurate with relative needs.
“Human beings are the active agencies in capital accumulation, and all other factors of production are passive. The technological and labour productivity differences we see in the world result from human capital formation and those countries at the forefront of technology have the most educated populations,” Touray concluded.