World Bank US$20 million grant aims to address skills gap

The government of Sierra Leone has received a US$20 million grant from the World Bank for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) focused on the agriculture, fisheries, tourism, oil and gas, and mining sectors.

The aim is to address the skills gaps experienced by companies in the formal and informal sectors and will include the co-financing of short- to medium-term training for upgrading the skills of current and potential employees.

The World Bank grant is to be directed towards helping TVET institutions to update their curricula, purchase learning resources, train instructors, facilitate industrial attachments, provide career counselling and internships, conduct training needs assessments and tracer studies and support for business.

In an interview with University World News on the sidelines of the recent RUFORUM Biennial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Sierra Leone’s Minister for Education Professor Aiah Gbakima said a memorandum of understanding between Sierra Leone and the World Bank was signed on 2 October.

“The project will officially commence at the beginning of next year and it is expected that in the coming years the country will have graduates from these institutions with the right technical skills for economic growth and industrial transformation of the country,” said Gbakima.

Technical skills development was a priority for the country in its effort to create employment for the youth.

“Given that the youth population in the country is high, it means the demand for higher education is also high. Unfortunately a majority of these youths are unemployed after graduating. Upgrading and equipping the TVET institutions is among the key solutions to the problem.”

He said the ministry of education, with the support of the World Bank, was redesigning the education curriculum for the entire tertiary education system with the focus on developing technical skills that can align with the job market.

“Universities’ programmes in science, mathematics and technology are being redesigned to focus more on research and innovation while the TVET institutions are being expanded to accommodate the increasing number of students graduating from secondary schools,” he said.

He said the country’s president, Julius Bio, has appointed a special multi-sectoral committee to work with all the universities in the country in ensuring that science and technical courses are research-based.

According to a World Bank statement, the skills development programme will be evidence-based skills policy formulation that will improve the relevance of skills training programmes in the institutions. This will be done through integrated skills information systems requiring TVET providers to report on students, training programmes, training faculty, and training facilities. This is expected to improve the credibility and relevance of TVET certification by involving industries and businesses in the process.