As the count down to Uganda’s Independence Golden Jubilee dropped, the education sector unveiled Skilling Uganda as the strategic re-orientation of the country’s vocational track. The shift in government’s approach to vocational training is premised on addressing unemployment by shaping entrepreneurial attitudes among Ugandans. Indeed, talk about youth unemployment sends ripples across Africa and several governments are crafting policy interventions to tackle the challenge. In September, the Conference of African Union Ministers in-charge of Youth (COMY) IV convened in Addis Ababa to take stock of the commitment to reduce youth unemployment by 2% per year between 2009 and 2018.
By skilling learners, Skilling Uganda seeks to tweak vocational education to the demands of the occupational environment. That the re-orientation from theoretical grounding to practical mastery in various trades makes Ugandans more employable makes a levelheaded postulation. However, the bridge to cross is from theorising to moulding applied skill. Skilling Ugandaseeks to promote skilling through training for school leavers and drop outs. For this 10 year enterprise to churn out a workforce that serves the needs of a growing economy, learning will be pivotal to the transformation that is needed to drive a proactive national development agenda. To learn in order to apply oneself as opposed to accumulating knowledge is not only the keystone for skilling Ugandans; it is the platform for coalescing individual mastery.
The leaning towards nurturing competencies in Skilling Uganda where content is tailored to the world of work makes learning critical not only to the vocational pathway but also to education as a whole. Although Skilling Uganda targets school leavers and drop outs, the foundation of learning, to develop competencies, is an outcome to aim for throughout the education cycle. Having access to universal primary and secondary education is only one step. Being in school should, for all intents and purposes, groom every Ugandan to apply themselves to the challenges of the global era. By investing in honing competencies, right from early learning, Uganda’s education system can simultaneously promote access and skilling of learners.
In a country where social attitudes view a university degree as the hallmark of accomplishment, career guidance pitches for skilling as an express highway to entrepreneurial fulfillment. Teachers along with parents remain indispensable in fostering a hands-on orientation throughout schooling.
As technology continues to drive production, the skilling thrust of Uganda’s education system requires the agility to integrate new ways of doing things in order to remain in sync with fast changing know-how. The pursuit of an industry-driven economy in Uganda calls for a workforce which possesses competencies different from those of the past age. Beyond numeracy and literacy, soundness of analysis, problem solving are far more critical to today’s ways of working than in the past. Similarly, digital literacy and fluency in languages are modern-day passports of global citizens.
Uganda’s burgeoning oil industry will demand technicians who can demonstrate ingenuity in working with modern technology as opposed to routine operation of machines. As Uganda diversifies its energy sources, power technicians will be expected to integrate photovoltaic systems beyond installing meters and wiring. In construction, plumbers, welders, interior designers, air conditioning installers, landscape designers who are in tune with modern construction techniques will be required to service infrastructural development. With the oil bubble attracting more international businesses, the hospitality industry will thrive on culinary artists and hoteliers adept in forward-looking approaches to visitor appeal.
Skilling Uganda’s legacy is not in its projected enrolment of 42,000 Ugandans by 2016. It’s real thrust lies in influencing the skilling of Ugandans throughout their education so that they can apply themselves at any stage of education and spur Uganda into a middle-income economy.