ECOWAS considers skills and employability action plan

Stakeholders from member states of the regional grouping, ECOWAS, or the Economic Community of West African States, met in Gambia to validate the ECOWAS draft TVET Strategy for Skills Improvement and Employability, or ETSSIE, according to a statement.

The meeting, which took place from 19-21 September, brought together representatives of member states, development partners and experts in the field of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to validate the plan, which is aimed at responding to the current and future challenges of the TVET sector.

The plan provides measures to improve the quality of technical and vocational education and training and adapt to labour market needs as well as promote entrepreneurship.

Participants at the meeting expected the validated action plan to serve as a key instrument to transform these aspects, thereby promoting inclusive growth, sustainable job creation and a significant improvement of skills and employability in the ECOWAS region.

Professor Abdoulie Maga, ECOWAS director of education, culture, science and technology, who represented Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs Professor Fatou Sow Sarr, said unemployment has become a major factor which is fuelling social crisis, conflicts and rebellion, terrorism and crime, as well as general political instability in the region.

For this reason, he said, there was the need to find a solution to end these challenges.

TVET as a response to social crises

As part of the solutions to the social problems that have engulfed the region, he said, it has been identified that, “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.”

Maga said that, over the years, they had conducted a series of activities on TVET programmes which dovetail into the development of ETSSIE, adding that the outcome of their discussion will chart the course for ECOWAS’ progress in ensuring that the collective aspirations are translated into actionable plans that foster development, inclusivity and sustainability.

He said the TVET sub-sector was important for the development of markets in the region to be backed by skills that can spur entrepreneurial activities as well as socio-economic development, adding that it is a key part of ECOWAS’ development strategy to equip young people with essential “vocational skills and employment-related competencies, to become self-sufficient, self-dependent and productive”.

Human capital as national development tool

Yusupha Touray, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Higher Education in Gambia, on behalf of Professor Pierre Gomez, the minister of higher education, research, science and technology, said the formation of human capital in any developing nation has a correlating effect on its national development.

Touray said the nature of economies is dictated by workforces with the right qualifications and skills from tertiary and higher education, adding that, “the process Gambia had embarked upon to build our human capital is through a very efficient and effective tertiary and higher education training process, that is intended to 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.

Touray said the World Bank has shown an interest in the work of ECOWAS in the area of TVET and has recognised the need for the provision of support for the cost of expansion and reformation of curricula in response to expanding scientific knowledge and changing economic opportunities.

According to Touray, “workforce planning for socio-economic development in low-income countries is yet to be addressed. Equitable distribution of resources among the sub-sectors of the education sector remains a significant challenge, with many parameters to consider”.

Reforms needed to propel economy

He said some developed nations that addressed the challenges associated with the development of TVET have invested heavily in the sector and have, accordingly, managed to transition to higher levels of socio-economic development.

Touray highlighted the importance of TVET as an essential instrument for the development and increase of standard human capital and improvement of skills and employability in the region, and said human development plays a valid role in national, regional and global development, stressing the need for socio-economic development in low-income countries.

He said the Gambian government, in developing the country’s education sector, has decided to shoulder the training of an informed and skilful workforce and has, accordingly, decided to revitalise its National Training Authority, together with its National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority, to ensure the proper training of a qualified workforce.

Touray said Gambia has yet to have an education system that responds to the country’s production needs for its key development sectors, adding that it is, therefore, apt to put in place reforms to lead to an improved workforce that will help to propel the country from a low-income to a middle-income economy.