Inside Govt’s Proposed National Apprenticeship Scheme to Curb Unemployment

L-R: Mary Kawar the Director for the International Labour Organization (ILO) for East Africa, Minister for Labour Banat Mukwaya, State Minister for Higher Education Chrysostom Muyingo and Pius Bigirimana the P.S Ministry of Labour during Thursday's consultative meeting

Government is planning to implement an apprenticeship program that will help young graduates, school drop outs to attain on job skills training as a way of solving the problem of youth unemployment.

The program, under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development intends to bridge the skills gap and enable youth to compete favorably in the labour market.

Apprenticeship is a unique form of vocational education, combining on the job work-based learning and school-based training, for specifically combined competencies and work processes.

It is regulated by law and based on a written employment contract with a compensatory payment and has a standard social protection coverage.

A formalized assessment and a recognized certification come at the end of the program which has a fixed duration.

Uganda’s youthful population was estimated at about 8 million according to the 2014 national census, with about 78% of the population below the age of 30 years of age.

However, a significant number of this young population remains either unemployed or underemployed which makes it difficult to get out of poverty.

The National Labour Force survey 2012 reported that only 1.9% of the youth had post primary specialized training, 2.9% had specialized secondary training and 1.3% had a degree and above.

95% of all the employed youth were in informal employment, majority of them (approximately 13%) in time related underemployment.

Statistics on Uganda’s labor market performance indicate that the over the last two decades from 1992 to 2012, the total labor force grew at an annual average rate of 3.1% but growth in total employment averaged 2.96%.

This disparity accounts for the accumulation of unemployment for both the formally educated and those who are not educated.

It is upon this background that Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is pushing for apprenticeship to turn around the high figures of youths who are rendered unemployable due to lack of work experience.

On Thursday, the Ministry presented a draft framework of the National Apprenticeship Scheme that will guide the implementation of the program to a cross section of stakeholders in both government and the private sector.

The framework spells out the implementation arrangements, quality assurance of training, financing as well as the roles and responsibilities of different key actors in the scheme.

On its part, the Ministry of Labour will have a legal mandate to regulate and implement formal apprenticeship schemes in Uganda pursuant to the Employment Act (2006) and the National Employment Policy of Uganda (2011).

A National Apprenticeship Steering Committee (NASC), chaired by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour will provide the mechanism by which apprenticeships in specific occupations are formally identified, described and endorsed by the Minister.

The committee will also include representatives from the Ministry of Education, employer and workers organizations, Office of the Prime Minister, National Planning Authority, Ministry of Finance and other government departments.

It is this same committee that will be responsible for developing Apprenticeship Training Orders through Sector Apprenticeship Committees.

The training order covers the skills requirements from the different occupations, contract, the period of training, training program, the wages payable and the structure of enterprises in each sector.

It will also spell out on-job training requirements and the eligibility criteria for enterprises taking on an apprentice.

Stakeholders and Roles 

Whereas the Ministry of Labour is the implementing government department, it will work together with different sector specific players, key among them; Ministry of Education which is at the supply side and the industry players who are the potential employers.

Each of these will have specific roles to play in ensuring the apprenticeship scheme gets the desirable outcomes.

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development will be charged with social marketing and promotion of apprenticeships, liaising with the designated intermediary industry association/employer organisations to register apprentices and employers as well as coordinating other stakeholders in the sector to ensure workplace supervisors receive training in how to deliver on-the-job training.

It will also liaise with the Ministry of Education to identify training organisations able to deliver the designated training program in a flexible manner, undertake audits of workplaces with social partners to ensure that enterprise eligibility criteria and apprenticeship contracts are being correctly implemented.

Industry associations and employer organisations will have a central role in the implementation of apprenticeships in any sector.

They will act as intermediaries between the government and individual employers.

Their responsibilities will include; promoting apprenticeships in the sector through social marketing to employers, identifying and vetting individual employers, providing support to employers and apprentices to resolve any issues arising during the apprenticeship.

It will also advise the implementing Ministry on any apprenticeship issue requiring formal government intervention and provide feedback and advice on the operation of apprenticeships in the sector.

By delegating these responsibilities to industry-based intermediaries, the operational demands of implementation on MGLSD are minimised and private sector leadership is secured.

The other stakeholders will be the employers and enterprises who will directly employ the apprentices and also pass on the hands-on training to them, signing a contract which will include paying a wage.

Employers will also nominate a workplace supervisor or master-craftsperson responsible for the training of the apprentice and attest that the apprentice has reached the required skill level by signing the competency log book as skills are achieved.

Another key actor in the scheme will be the Ministry of Education which will be the overall assessor and certifier of the apprenticeship scheme but also develop the curriculum and resource materials to be used in both on-and-off-the-job training.

It will oversee the Business, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) training organizations, enrolling the apprentices in the training program, schedule the designated training program in a flexible manner.

The Education Ministry is also going to visit the apprentice in their workplace at least once every six months during the life of the apprenticeship as well as supervise the quality assurance of the off-the-job training delivered by training organisations.

As workers, organisations are key social partners in any labour market program; they have a role to play in the development and implementation of apprenticeship schemes.

In addition to contributing to the development of the Apprenticeship Training Orders that set out how apprenticeships will operate for a particular occupation in a particular sector, workers organisations will also participate alongside government and employer representatives in tripartite spot audits of workplaces to ensure that enterprise eligibility criteria and apprenticeship contracts are being correctly implemented.

The apprentices or trainees will be required to comply with the terms and conditions set out in the apprenticeship contract, enroll in the pre-apprenticeship literacy and numeracy training and the off-the-job training program as required at a relevant BTVET institution and satisfactorily complete all the on-and-off the job training requirements. 

Quality Training

It is acknowledged that the quality of training in many public and private training organisations in Uganda is inadequate. Institutions are challenged by inadequate facilities and equipment, with staff that do not have current industry skills. As recognised in the Skilling Uganda Strategic Plan, additional support to institutions is required.

As such, it is expected that the training institutions identified to receive additional resources to become Centres of Excellence in Uganda could be the most appropriate institutions to provide off-the-job training during the pilot phase of the National Apprenticeship Scheme.

For an apprenticeship scheme to deliver results to employers, apprentices and the community more broadly, mechanisms need to be in place to ensure the delivery of quality training both on and off the job.

Curriculum and Resource Materials

Each Apprenticeship Training Order will specify the course to be delivered and the Uganda Vocational Qualification Framework (UVQF) credential to be issued.

Curriculum from other countries such as City & Guilds or EDEXCEL, or leading local enterprises with well-developed programs such as Uganda Water, could be used as curriculum if it is specified in the Apprenticeship Training Order. As such, the Sector Apprenticeship Committees through inputs from Ministry of Education could identify comparable international and local programs that could be used as curriculum.

Workplace supervisors will also require resource materials to support quality on-the-job training in the workplace. The development of these materials, including competency log books, will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. If curriculum and resource materials do not exist for the identified apprenticeship occupation, MES will develop them.

 In regard to the delivery of training, once the scheme is fully operational, the off-the-job training program included in the apprenticeship scheme will be able to be delivered by either a public or private training organisation registered with Uganda Association of Private Vocational Institutes (UGAPRIVI). However, during the pilot phase, it is expected that only public training institutions under Ministry of Education will be involved.


Apprentices will be required to undertake final assessment for the program delivered by the off-the-job training organisation before a formal qualification under the Uganda Vocational Qualification Framework (UVQF) can be issued at the end of the training. This assessment will occur at a Ministry of Education registered assessment centre.

Apprentices will be eligible to undertake the assessment once they have completed all off-the-job training requirements and have been signed off as competent by their workplace supervisor against each of the competencies in the competency log book.

The assessment Centre will be responsible for conducting the assessment and communicating the results to both MGLSD and MES so that a UVQF credential can be issued by MES and an apprenticeship completion certificate can be issued by MGLSD.

These certification arrangements will ensure that apprentices successfully completing the program will receive nationally recognised qualifications. 


Implementing the proposed apprenticeship scheme requires financial allocations to cover or partially offset costs associated with delivering or supporting the following activities.

Some of the activities involved include; off-the-job training and development of on-the-job training resource materials.

In order to boost the quality of training, capacity building of key stakeholders, including workplace trainers, support services by intermediaries (industry associations/employer organisations) will be undertaken.

Social marketing and promotion for mobilisation and awareness raising, assessment of apprentices as well as monitoring and evaluation will all come at a financial cost.

Government contributions would be through budget allocations from the Ministry of Finance to Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education and other line ministries where apprenticeships might operate such as tourism, agriculture and trade (as relevant to manufacturing).

Employer contributions would be in the form of training delivered on the job and possibly through in-kind and cash contributions made by industry and employer associations acting as intermediary bodies.

If the proposed Skills Development Fund (SDF) comes into existence, a funding window to support apprenticeships could also be included and thus provide another source of private sector funding.

Apprentices themselves contribute to the cost of the program by accepting reduced wages for the period of the apprenticeship. They could also make a contribution by covering the cost of assessment and certification as is currently the case for BTVET students.

Given the strong support for apprentices within the development community, it is reasonable to expect that development partners will contribute to ongoing efforts to pilot and implement formal apprenticeships in Uganda. 

Monitoring & Evaluation

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development will lead the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the apprenticeship scheme. A database of apprentices and employers will be developed and the M&E approach will use a range of qualitative and quantitative methods involving specially designed monitoring tools.

The outcomes of M&E activities will then be shared with the National apprenticeship Steering Committee for policy guidance and decision making.

The outcome indicators applied in measuring the scheme’s impact will include the number of apprentices that obtained jobs either full, part-time or self-employment after the training and those retained by the enterprise that employed them during the apprenticeship.

Completion and attainment rates of apprentices, the number of enterprises employing graduate apprentices in each sector and employer satisfaction with the apprenticeship program will also be among the M&E indicators



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