The demand for skilled African labour force, which is essential to stimulating development, generating well-paying jobs and raising the living standards has continued to trigger the rapid development of African tertiary education, particularly the Technical, vocational education and training (TVET) institutions.
Despite the growth in the number of TVETs across the continent, very little is known about them, the programmes they offer and the impact they have had on skilling Africans. Their work is not sufficiently visible to the public partly because, technical scientists have challenges in communicating the information they gather and the knowledge they generate.
Under the auspice of the inter- University Council for Eastern Africa (IUCEA), through the World Bank-funded East African Skills for Transformation Project (EASTRIP), communication officers from TVET institutions in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia were trained on various communication aspects.
Communication specialists from Ethiopia during the training session on enhancing photography skills
Facilitated by Maureen Agena, an ICT4D consultant, the three workshops so far held in Nairobi, Kenya, Jinja, Uganda and most recently Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, gave the communication officers an opportunity to embrace and communicate with a broad range of project stakeholders.
The training session started with a general background of communication and its importance to TVETs and later advanced into practical elements of how to conduct interviews, write feature stories, press releases and articles, engage with media, social media to report and photography among others. The trainings were hands-on and participatory.
The interview session was particularly fascinating as most participants were unfamiliar with being interviewed. In fact, an in-house poll reflected that only a couple of them interfaced with media and spoke on behalf of the project. A few others had organised interviews for senior colleagues and the majority thought it wasn’t necessary for their work.
The session which mostly focused on responding to media, managing expectations, choosing what content to share and how, as well as time management, was both eye-opening and insightful. At the end of the session, all the participants were implored to actively engage media to broaden their communication reach. The facilitator also emphasized the need to develop media databases and build rapport with various journalists and media personalities.
The social media session brought out the challenges that they face with content generation, and dissemination. In addition to their websites, many of their institutions had functional social networks such as Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. However, they were mainly inactive and infrequently updated. The session mostly focused content production and management, editing information on the active accounts, security features and how to protect the accounts. There was a call to be active by generating attractive and impact oriented content to ensure consistent engagement.
Additionally, the officials were also introduced remote collaboration. This was in light of the fact that most TVETs work in isolation and yet they have a lot of information to share and enlighten the general public about. This session was to encourage them to work collaboratively on articles, surveys and newsletters without worry about physical distance.
By collaborating remotely, they learn best practices and share skills with their counterparts in other TVETs. They were also trained on basic photography, writing press releases, organizing media advisories among others.
A comment from the EASTRIP Regional Project Coordinator, Dr. Cosam Joseph summarizes the impact of the workshops, “The great interest by TVET institutions in advancing their communication knowledge and skills, highlights the need for greater investment in capacity building. We believe that the trainings have equipped the project communication officers with skills whose fruits we are reaping through increased engagement”.
TVETs must adapt to the current communication and information needs by aggressively sharing every innovation and how it is addressing the skills gap and contributing to skilled labour force for Africa. Only then will their contribution be recognized, acknowledged and supported by Governments.
By Maureen Agena, a Development Communication Consultant who conducted the communication training