The Ethiopian government will establish three technology institutes and upgrade Kombolcha Technology Institute to solve a shortage of human resources witnessed in the textile and garment sector.
The textile and garment institutes will start operations next Ethiopian fiscal year.
The establishment of the institutions was initiated by the Export Committee, which was set up to support export-driven sectors and solve problems they face in electricity, land, resources, and finance.
The committee, chaired by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and comprised of ministers and representatives of various sectors, discussed how to elevate the deficiency of human resources in the textile and garment sectors. There are about 40,000 people working in the textile and garment industries. The country requires over 1.3 million trained employees for the sectors, according to a study conducted by experts at the Textile Industries Development Institute (TIDI).
Looking into the existing gap, the Export Committee decided to establish textile engineering institutes in Axum, Dire Dawa, and Addis Abeba, and upgrade the one in Kombolcha, according to sources close to the issue.
These locations were selected for their proximity to existing textile and garment factories.
Almeda Textile Factory is located near Adwa, on the main road to Axum while MAA Garment Factory is situated on the outskirts of Mekele, 233km east of Axum, in Tigray Regional State.
Kombolcha, an industrial zone in Amhara Regional State, is a home to Kombolcha Textile SC. Dire Dawa, which is close to Djibouti Port, also has Dire Dawa Textile Factory. Several textile and garment factories are concentrated in Addis Abeba, which are more than the industries in other parts of the country.
"The institutes will be under the administration of the existing universities, managed by the schools of technology," a senior manager who works closely with the issue and asked for anonymity, told Fortune. "It will be able to provide students practical knowledge in addition to theoretical courses."
The TIDI and the Engineering Capacity Building Programme (ecbp) drafted a joint action plan and sent it to Sileshi Lemma, director of the TIDI and Mebrahtu Meles (PhD), director of the ecbp for approval last week. The action plan will serve as an input for the upcoming curriculum for the institutes, according the senior manager.
"What the market and the industry need has been studied. The curriculum will be based on the action plan and the study," the senior manager explained. "The new curriculum will upgrade the existing facility and develop new laboratories."
Universities in Axum, Wollo, Dire Dawa, as well as the Addis Abeba Science & Technology University (AASTU) are the existing higher learning institutions that are expected to host these institutes. Axum University, established in 2005, has a college of Engineering & Technology but does not offer textile or garment-related courses. However, Wollo University already has an Institute of Technology in Kombolcha. The Institute offers various engineering courses at the undergraduate level, including textile engineering.
Like its Wollo counterpart, Dire Dawa University, which started operations in 2006, has an Institute of Technology. Though the University has an Industrial Engineering Department, it has not offered textile and garment focused lessons. The newly established AASTU, located in Akaki Kaliti District, is envisioned as a centre of excellence in science and technology.
The four universities are expected to offer five-year courses to their students through the institutes. The courses take place in three phases. The first phase, stretching for three years, covers the basic theoretical engineering and textile-related courses.
The second phase, embraces fourth-year, first- semester students and provides field practice and internship opportunities. The year and a half-long third phase enables students to specialise in focus areas of textiles and garments.
The four universities requested a fund from the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development (MoFED) for the setup of the institutes. Officials at the TIDI refused to disclose the cost or give further details, claiming the project is at an early stage.
The establishment of the institutes is most welcomed by the stakeholders, which have for long complained about the lack of skilled manpower. Ambassador Garment & Trading Plc is one of the factories that suffer from a shortage of trained manpower. The company has 340 employees and produces 500 readymade and 100 made-to-measure suits daily, according to Seid Mohammed Berhan, owner and general manager of the company.
Even for Ambassador, which has been in the garment industry for the past two decades, finding a designer as competitive as the market requires and a technician that can manage the garment machinery has been difficult, Seid Mohammed said.
"We were forced to give training because they were not practically trained," he said.
The state-owned Kombolcha Textile SC, established in 1986, was also forced to provide training for its employees. The factory is giving three-month trainings for its employees that work on machines to high-level operations like designing and knitting. The company currently has 1,425 employees, according to Mustefa Jemal, general manager of the company.
"Fresh graduates from various higher learning institutions come to our company, and we give trainings for them," Mustefa told Fortune.
Currently, there is only one textile institution that offers trainings. The training facility, the Institute of Textile Garment & Fashion Design, is under Bahir Dar University. However, the institute is not competitive enough because its students do not get practical lessons, according to stakeholders.
The industry requires the necessary knowledge of quality standards and testing instruments used for textiles. The types of fibres, with reference to pre-treatment, dying, printing, and finishing of the fabric, produce value-added products, according to an expert from the TIDI.
The textile sector was targeted to contribute 85.1 million dollars by the year 2010/11, yet only 72.7pc of the target was achieved. This, however, is better than the 21.8 million dollars in export earnings of the government's previous five-year plan, which aimed to collect 500 million dollars, according to data from the Ministry of Trade (MoT).
Ethiopia is targeting to raise the gross value production of textile and garment industries to 2.5 billion dollars and to scale up the production capacity by an additional 90pc by the end of 2014/15. There is also a plan to create 40,000 new jobs, according to the Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP).