Ensuring the employment of young people after graduation from tertiary institutions is a top priority for the government, the Deputy Principal in the Ministry of Development Planning, Makhoabane Lelimo said during the World Bank's Job-Ready Graduates of Secondary Education workshop held in Maseru last week.
The objective of the workshop was for the World Bank to present findings of a study they conducted early this year with the aim to investigate whether students that would have completed secondary education, Cambridge Overseas Schools Certificate (COSC), are ready for the professional job market.
In Lesotho, some students after completing their COSC seek employment in the factories, construction, security and informal sectors after failing to make it into the tertiary institutes for various reasons.
According to the World Bank, a total 65 percent of young people in the rural areas have only secondary education, while 46 percent attained only primary level education.
The World Bank study identified among other findings, the need to strengthen the development and capacity of vocational and Trade or Technical schools to cater for some students strong in practical areas of learning. These technical schools can also help secondary students to develop and transition to the work environment.
Investigations by the Lesotho Times have shown that, Lesotho's education development sector needs to strengthen technical skills in a number of areas including entrepreneurship and business management, aircraft mechanics and aviation, mechanical engineering technicians, veterinary technicians, carpentry, welding, construction and building, surgical technology and energy development.
A vibrant vocational and Trade education sector is seen by the World Bank as an engine to further develop skills focused on ensuring that graduates become employment creators, in addition to being able to provide the much-needed technical skills.
The study findings come at a time when the World Bank is providing support to the government in the formulation of a Technical and Vocational Education and Training Policy.
Speaking at the workshop, Ms Lelimo said that the government is grateful for the support provided by the World Bank on the policy formulation and many other areas of development in Lesotho.
"The development of a responsive policy will help the government to come up with more focused programmes aimed at tackling unemployment and other related issues," Ms Lelimo said.
She applauded the study, explaining that the findings will help to inform government programming in the area of skills development.
In her presentation, the World Bank Senior Education Specialist, Harisoa Rasolonjatovo said the World Bank remains committed to assisting the government to develop Job-Ready secondary education graduates possessing an understanding of skills they need to further develop to become relevant on the job market.
She said after attaining secondary education, students are unemployable and still need to be equipped with the necessary skills, which can be obtained through vocational and technical schools.
"It is also important to understand the current changes in the work environment. A secondary school qualification is not enough to secure decent work and therefore should be further developed to develop critical skills and also personal, socio-emotional, team work and self-management skills for endurance in harsh work environments," Ms Rasolonjatovo said.
Also speaking at the workshop, Mr Robert Goodman from New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning emphasized the importance of specialist vocational training schools.
He recommended a review of the secondary school curriculum to create a new system that would improve on the engagement of students, explaining that the traditional mode of teaching does not foster critical thinking.
"The schools are teaching students what to think not how to think and be innovative. This negatively affects them," Mr Goodman said.
He further explained that strengthening vocational and technical schools can help develop innovation, which demands thinkers and practicality.
"Lesotho needs to invest in strengthening the capacity of technical schools to improve the quality of skills acquired by students. Currently it appears such critical institutions are underfunded," Mr Goodman said.
On his part, the World Bank Senior Social Protection specialist, Mr Joachim Boko said young people and employers have different perspectives on the issue of skills.
"Some young people think it is only one's ability to write, fluency in English and professional skills that employers require. Although that too is important, employers also look for graduates' leadership, teamwork and adaptability skills," Mr Boko said.