19 December 2012

Uganda: Vocational Institute Struggles to Maintain Standards

Congested, weather-beaten, but still struggling to keep on its feet. This is probably a befitting description of an institution of the status of Lugogo Vocational Training Institute on Jinja Road in Kampala.

The institute sits on about one acre of land. However, the space looks too small to accommodate all the workshops and 1,400 students.

Unperturbed by the noise of the traffi c on Jinja Road and Industrial Area, an instructor conducts his lesson normally in this institute that opened its doors in 1954.

It was started by Germans as a trade testing centre under the Ministry of Labour. In 1993, the Government renovated and also set up a training centre for the youth. In 1998, the school was put under the Ministry of Education and Sports and turned into a vocational training institute.

It has since greatly contributed in terms of imparting skills and churning out youth trained to create jobs. A fleet of old cars with government number plates in the parking lot is a reminder that the institute is government-aided.

A plumbing instructor, Yonnah Tubugwisa, says despite the common challenges such us poor funding, the institute has still been able to deliver.

The exterior of the institute's wall fence is well-painted. However, inside, the walls have not seen paint for several years.

Apart from out-dated machinery in some of the workshops, the institute does not have enough space to accommodate the number of students which is increasing steadily.

According to the administration, this being a vocational institute which handles practical subjects, a lot more funds should be put into procuring machinery.

"How do you expect our students to compete with their counterparts countrywide if the machinery we use here is outdated?" an automotive instructor, Samson Okung, wonders.

The institute's deputy principal, Olam Omitta, says there is need for the institute to be revamped to cater for the increasing number of students.

Olam, who studied in the same institute in the 1980s, adds that the institute used to stand out back then. "Things have since changed. During our time, we had enough machinery, space and instructors," he recalls. The institution's population has been growing every year.

Initially, the institute was supposed to accommodate 104 students, a number which has grown ten fold.

Skilling Uganda?

Skilling has great opportunities, which include attracting investment and training opportunities for learners.

The Government plans to work with private investors, both the employers and private training providers. International experience shows that effective and relevant skills development systems are built on strong alliances with employers and the business sector.

Until recently, Ugandan employers have been passive benefi ciaries of technicalvocational training. However, private fi rms show an increasing interest in skills development. Notable examples include the construction and oil sector.

Immediate priority will be to develop and put in place skills development programmes for the oil industry. At least 10,000 jobs may be created directly and indirectly during the initial phase of oil extraction in the country.

The oil industry has already indicated its interest to drive the training process from identifi cation, through to delivery.

The certificates will help them obtain jobs anywhere in the world since they will be recognized as is the case with other national examination bodies.

Private entities will get access to all support schemes offered to Business, Technical and Vocational Education Training. The training institutions will be given subsidies if they invest in hard-to-reach areas and give training in priority occupations.

Labour market information indicates training needs in the ICT and hospitality sectors for service professionals at higher education levels in metal and machinery occupations, construction technologies and machine operators, modern mechanics and oil and gas technologies.

A recent survey indicates that Uganda is still lacking in the area of energy and environment technologies. The National Development Plan priorities further calls for a re-adjustment of health training to meet the country's health targets.

Uganda's informal sector operates at low levels of productivity and employment opportunities have increased in the recent years. But the informal sector remains the biggest employer, accounting for almost 60% of non-agricultural employment in Uganda.

Increased productivity in the informal sector requires improved skills and it is the same reason the country is focusing on skills development.

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