Two employees of the
Flemish Employment Service (VDAB) recently visited Uganda to share their
expertise on vocational training. The visit is a scoping mission for the Support
to the Implementation of the Skilling Uganda Strategy intervention supported by
the Belgian government. VDAB will examine how they can best assist BTC in
supporting five selected vocational training centres in becoming 'centres of
The scoping mission is the first in a new partnership between BTC and the Flemish Employment Service (VDAB). “We want to get a better understanding of the BTVET sector in Uganda. We met principals, trainers and students in different vocational training centres to get an idea of the current needs,” says Carlo De Smedt from the Flemish Employment Service.
His colleague Bartelijne van den Boogert adds: “We want to see this BTC project become a success and have a positive impact on vocational training in Uganda.”
The mission focused on five BTVET-institutions : Kasese Youth Polytechnic in Kasese, St. Josephs Virika Vocational Training Institute in Fort Portal, Millennium Business School in Hoima, St Simon-Peter Vocational Training Institute in Hoima and Kyema Uganda Technical College in Masindi. They are selected as pilot institutions for the intervention in West-Uganda, an area that is preparing for oil exploitation in the coming years. According to Mr. De Smedt one of the biggest challenges the project faces is seeing the bigger picture. “We should not assume that these five institutions share the same problems as every other Ugandan BTVET centre. We have to take regional differences into account.”
VDAB has a lot of experience when it comes to the Flemish labour market, but can their expertise also be of value in a Ugandan context? Ms van den Boogert firmly believes so: “With our background in career guidance and as a service provider for BTVET we can bring a fresh set of eyes to the table. We will share our success stories and lessons learned and most of all show people that they can accomplish a lot, even on a micro level.”
“Therefore we are also grateful that the VDAB colleagues participated in a training organized by the International Training Center of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO)”, says Eliot Arinaitwe, the coordinator of the SSU intervention. Together with colleagues from Namibia, the Netherlands, etc. the VDAB colleagues shared their first hand experiences in training for employment. “Making BTVET more relevant for the needs of the local labour market is key to the paradigm shift Skilling Uganda wishes to accomplish. The five selected institutions are not always aware of how to get this collaboration with the private sector going. Given their experience in Belgium, we hope that VDAB can share some first-hand ideas on how to broker these partnerships," Mr. Arinaitwe continued.
Listen to your peers
Ms van den Boogert acknowledges that working with the private sector is important but also stresses that the different training centres can learn a lot from each other: “I think it would be of great value to the selected institutions to go and visit one another. It will provide a good way to give constructive feedback and allow for learning opportunities. It can be very enriching to listen to peers, and most of all it is doesn’t have to be threatening since everyone is in the same boat. Those peer-to-peer moments are currently missing.”
Now that this first Ugandan mission has come to an end, VDAB and SSU will have to think about the way forward. “We need to draft a strategic plan with all the partners involved,” says Mr. De Smedt. “Back in Belgium we will inform our colleagues about the details of our mission and work as ambassadors to promote the cooperation between us and BTC from within the VDAB.” In a later stage this could mean that VDAB experts with specific vocational skills will visit the different BTVET-institutions and try to transfer these skills upon the local trainers, where and if relevant.
Asked about what she will definitely remember from this mission Ms. van den Boogert had but one word in mind: “dedication,” she said. “The principals and trainers at the vocational centres could easily be discouraged by the challenging circumstances they are working in. But instead of giving up, they stay committed to the cause of creating high quality vocational training. You have to admire people for that and we will do our best to further cultivate this intrinsic motivation.”