Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): A solution to chronic under-employment


Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): A solution to chronic under-employment

RPLA facilitator guides the candidate about the RPL procedures, eligibility, com­petences required for assess­ment and portfolio devel­opment as part of evidence; Candidates submit the application, VETA asses­sors screens it and inter­views the candidates. The candidates get pre­pared for assessment.

Although skilled in his craft as a constructor Iddy Rwechungula,30, suffered missed opportunities and a low professional self-esteem due to lack of formal training.

Iddy never attended sec­ondary school and like over 4 million workers in the coun­try, entered the informal sector in order to earn a liv­ing. Iddy learned construc­tion under the tutelage of his father who was a mason.

In countries with large infor­mal economies like Tanzania, informal apprenticeships are the only option for millions of young people to acquire skills.

Informal apprenticeships have key features: There is a training agreement between a young learner and an experienced craftsper­son to transmit the skills of a trade as between Iddy and his father. Under his father’s guidance, Iddy learned from practical on the job training rather than formal education.

While a teenager, Iddy left his home town, Bukoba to Dar es Salaam where he explored his different talents in act­ing while supporting him­self with construction work.

“I was a good actor, but I also found the time for con­struction jobs, particularly as a casual worker,” he said. After taking a few odd jobs, Iddy secured a work at Dar es Salaam port, as a cargo carrier. “I worked there for a long time, and one day one of the walls at the port collapsed. I asked to re-construct it,” he said.

The re-construction of the fallen wall put him in con­tact with the owner of She­dori Construction Company who hired him. After three years, Iddy was employed by an Indian construction firm, then moved to Greek and Chinese Companies where he gained more experience.

“I learned a lot of things but no one was ready to hire me because of my lack of educa­tion. I also had not attended any vocational school and had no certificates at hand,” he said.

Iddy’s story shows the shortcomings and challenges of informal apprenticeship. Apart from offering sub-par and even dangerous work­ing conditions, long working hours, low wages and little or no social protection; infor­mal apprenticeships also lead to lack of skills upgrad­ing and formal certification.

The agreements are often oral and are imbedded with­in the traditions norms and customs. The training pro­gramme is unregulated with no external quality assurances.

But Iddy’s high skill level did secured him work and he was awarded a tender to re-build a dilapidated mosque. “I did thorough research of the place, re-designed and draw a new map. I finally managed to build it, fixing the previous problems,” he said.

Iddy’s work gained him recognition from the Staff of Ardhi University who vis­ited the site and asked for his qualifications, CV and certifi­cates, but he had none to show. Ardhi University called after a month and connect him with the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme run by Vocational Educa­tional and Training Authority (VETA) with support from the International Labour Organ­isation (ILO). The ILO sup­ports the RPL programme under its Skills development (Skill Up) programme funded by the government of Norway.

RPL is a process used to identify assess and clarify an individual’s knowledge, skills and competencies regardless of how, when and where the learning took place against prescribed standards for modular or full qualifications.

In March 2015, Iddy Rwec­hungula was officially enrolled into the RPL programme joined other six youths from Kinondoni and many oth­ers from Temeke (60), Ilala (24), Kigamboni (30) and Ubungo (15). To date 3694 candidates have received their VETA RPL certificates.

Iddy and his peers filled in a basic competency applica­tion form in their area of expertise mainly, masonry, carpentry, food and beverage production, vehicle mechan­ics and tailoring. Candidates also submitted an evidence portfolio of their work to showcase their skills capacity.

After the initial applica­tion and self-assessment, Iddy was assigned to an RPL assessor who took him through several stages of competence testing such as a technical theory interview, practical skills assessment whereby the VETA assessor monitored Iddy while at work against a checklist of compe­tences developed by VETA.

Iddy passed the assessment and moved to the next stage of technical theory training, busi­ness management, marketing and customer service modules at VETA. Iddy then received his VETA certification. Things have been look­ing up for him ever since. Iddy now has access to big­ger and better building proj­ects and is a more confident in his skills. “I am now build­ing multi-story buildings, so I have to employ more peo­ple, in total I have worked with more than 40 people.

I am also looking forward to starting my own con­struction company.” Iddy’s story shows that RPL not only raises the confidence of informally skilled work­ers and artisans, but it facili­tates a major shift from informal to formal employ­ment and self-employment.

How does it work?

In a nutshell the RPLA pro­cess involves the following steps; an informal appren­tice, who meet the criteria applies for RPLA through fill­ing a skills competency form in their area of expertise.

RPLA facilitator guides the candidate about the RPL procedures, eligibility, com­petences required for assess­ment and portfolio devel­opment as part of evidence; Candidates submit the application, VETA asses­sors screens it and inter­views the candidates. The candidates get pre­pared for assessment. Candidates get assessed against prescribed standards for the selected qualification;

Who does the RPL programme target?

RPL targets workers like Iddy who have been work­ing in the informal sector for a minimum of five years. It targets workers who have acquired occupational skills through non-formal train­ing or through life or work experience but never rec­ognized and/or certified.

The benefits of RPL

Upgrading informal appren­ticeship is crucial because:

• It provides pathways to formal training for those who missed out and or those who pre­viously did not qualify.

• Moves workers to the for­mal economy and gives them access to apply for government tenders (which they would not be able to access due to lack of certification).

• Introduces candidates to basic business man­agement and gives them the skills to man­age team of employees.

• Encourages further learning and skills upgrading and linkages with formal training.

• It promotes equity and social inclusion, pro­motes flexible learn­ing through multiple entry and exit learn­ing mechanisms.

• Also benefits employ­ers, through more skilled workers and helps them to meet quality assurance stan­dards of TBS and ISO.

Where is the programme now?

VETA in collaboration with enterprises and with support from ILO have final­ized a national guideline for RPL, competency standards for 4 sectors including motor vehicle mechanics, Carpen­try and joinery masonry and brick laying and food pro­duction have also been set.

VETA is also currently mak­ing moves to expand the RPL programme across Tanzania and is currently conducting a training of over 240 assessors from all over Tanzania in Sin­gida. More occupations have also been targeted with direc­tives from the government on occupations needed for the country’s industrial drive.

Furthermore the ILO is also currently working with the government of Zanzibar and Vocational Training Authority (VTA) to pin point top occupa­tions for RPL assessment as an initial stage of developing Zan­zibar’s first RLP programme.