According to the 2015 World Bank Enterprise Surveys, over 25 percent of the formal firms surveyed in Sub-Saharan Africa identify an inadequately educated workforce as a major constraint, and over 29 percent of all production workers are rated unskilled workers by these firms. Shortage of specialized technical and vocational education and training (TVET) skills is particularly acute in transport, energy, manufacturing, including agro-processing, and ICT, and this could slow the industrialization agenda. A careful mapping of skills needs assessment for the East Africa Skills for Transformation and Regional Integration Project (EASTRIP) sectors provides concrete statistics that show severe skills shortage. Moreover, TVET institutions have no systematic approaches to engage industry to understand and translate market demands into curricula.
TVET is gaining momentum in the developing and developed world as a policy priority to increase labor productivity and enable economic transformation. According to the 2018 World Bank’s world development report titled ‘Learning’, TVET can yield wages on par with equivalent levels of general education. TVET can be a powerful engine of economic restructuring and transformation as amply demonstrated in the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and China, countries where TVET has been explicitly used as an instrument and channel for technology transfer and skills upgrading of workers. TVET is also associated with promoting social inclusiveness and poverty alleviation as it tends to attract students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who have lower probabilities of reaching higher education.
The East Africa Skills for Transformation and Regional Integration Project (EASTRIP) brings a regional approach to developing the specialized TVET skills by creating a small cluster of regional TVET Centers of Excellence. Each center will specialize in specific sectors and occupations with niche programs in highly specialized TVET diploma and degree programs, as well as industry recognized short-term courses. Mobility of students, graduates, and faculty will facilitate a healthy exchange of skilled labor within the region so that each country does not have to produce all the skills at once. The sharing of standards, curriculum, and training facilities will help reduce costs for each center. At the same time, demonstrations will help inform and guide the broader array of national TVET reforms in these countries. The regional TVET Centers of Excellence can serve the labor needs of major regional infrastructure projects.