The Director of the International Labor Organization (ILO) for East Africa, Mary Kawar has said that the plan by government to introduce an apprenticeship program will foster decent employment for the youth as well as strengthen Uganda’s competitiveness for sustainable growth.
Kawar was speaking on Thursday at Imperial Royale Hotel where the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development which is the implementing government agency held a consultative forum to present a draft framework for the apprenticeship program.
The program seeks to focus on on-job skills training so as to address the skilling gaps in the labor market to help young people become competitive and productive.
This comes at the backdrop of a significant challenge of unemployment for a country with the biggest young population on the African continent.
“I thank the government of Uganda for its dedication towards developing an apprenticeship program. The presence of senior government officials at this high level discussion is a manifestation of the importance that you accord to the development of young people in Uganda,” the ILO Director, Kawar said in her remarks.
She added; “The ILO shares government’s medium and longterm aspirations to create decent work for young men and women. We stand by you to achieve the national development plan to strengthen Uganda’s competitiveness for sustainable wealth creation, employment and inclusive growth.”
She noted that unemployment remains a problem world over, resulting from skills mismatch between supply and demand, and the fact that young people are deprived of opportunities which traps them in low paying jobs.
ILO has partnered with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation to support Uganda in formulating a framework and systems for quality apprenticing.
“A formal apprenticeship program provides the necessary experience for the first labor market entry and aims to eliminate economic exclusion,” Kawar told participants.
Thousands of graduates in Uganda today have failed to get employment due to the lack of experience (usually lengthy) required by the employers.
On their part, employers argue that the skills possessed by the young graduates are completely different from what is required in the labor market. Many have proposed an overhaul of the ‘obsolete’ education curriculum.
According to Kawar, combining school knowledge and technical professional training through apprenticeship gives employers an opportunity to tune apprentices to their needs.
In neighboring Tanzania where ILO is currently implementing a similar program, she said 98% of the apprentices are being employed by the companies that they have apprenticed in.
Whereas such programs are of benefit to the employee, Kawar noted that the employers (companies) too gain from the competitiveness as well as quality of services which boosts their business.
The different government bodies and private sector organizations that took part in the consultative meeting welcomed the program although some said issues like apprentice wages (especially in the private sector) and certification need to be streamlined. Others proposed that the Ministry of Education considers inculcating apprenticeship at lower levels of education.