Initiatives to curb youth unemployment are in place everywhere, especially in the education sector, which has in recent years been put under the microscope.
Education and development enthusiasts have for a long time been concerned about the lack of skills among university graduates, which is said to be one of the reasons many end up jobless after college. The good news however, is that government institutions responsible for the sector’s development are currently investing in ensuring more young people become employable or self-employed after graduating.
Obi Kalinga,25, is a bachelor’s degree in education graduate currently working with the MeTL Group as a motorcycle assembler. He is among ten recently employed workers at the company’s motorcycle assembling factory at Vingunguti in Dar es Salaam.
Typically, these motorcycles are imported from India as packages where they need to be assembled or manufactured to become portable motorcycles for business. Various separated metals are assembled locally to form a moving vessel.
A technician at Fekon, a motorcycle company, who wished to remain anonymous says for a long time many companies have been using foreign artisans to do the job due to lack of skilled locals. However, he admits there is currently a great awakening in Tanzania.
“In fact, many young Tanzanians have been missing out on these opportunities because some do not know they exist in the first place. Others ignore the opportunities to learn how to assemble motorcycles. At the moment the situation is not bad because many young people have started learning this skill,” he tells Success over the phone.
Kalinga, the education graduate shares that while he continued to search for a teaching job, he learnt through his aunt about an opportunity to learn how to assemble motorcycles and three-wheelers (Bajaji), a programme funded by the government through the Skills Development Fund (SDF) and coordinated by the Tanzania Education Authority (TEA).
“Given the employment challenge, I did not think twice but made the decision right away and seized the opportunity,” says Kalinga.
Kalinga is among more than 400 young people who have benefited from the SDF-funded training, which runs for three weeks at the Future World Vocational Training College in the Gongolamboto suburbs of Dar es Salaam.
During the training, Kalinga and his colleagues were first taught how to drive motorcycles and three-wheelers. They were then sent to various industries for further practical training.
One of the industries these young people went to was the MeTL motorcycle assembly and sales company. Those who seemed to be doing well were retained and officially employed at the firm.
The manager at the factory, who introduced himself as Verma, says; “The young men showed seriousness and willingness to do the job, which led to the MeTL Company management hiring them.”
Verma says when the group joined the company for practical training, they did not have enough skills in motorcycle assembly but after practice and classroom knowledge, they are now capable of assembling up to three motorcycles a day.
“In short, government’s intention to provide funding for skills development training has been successful as young people have acquired the skills and knowledge that will enable them to find employment in the market without having to rely on government jobs,” Kalinga explains.
Asked what his future plans regarding his teaching profession are, Kalinga says, “I am making good use of the opportunity I have currently, which has enabled me to earn a living that helps me meet my basic needs and run my life ...”
Another beneficiary, Yassin Athumani, a Form Six leaver expresses his excitement about the SDF training opportunity, which led to his current employment as a motorcycle assembler at MeTL Group.
To ensure he stands as an ambassador for vocational training, Yassin says, “I always urge my fellow youth to grab the skills development opportunities offered by government and development partners regardless of their education level.”
He adds; “I received information about the training through leaflets distributed on the streets, so I feel obliged to share the information with others so that whoever is interested can benefit like I did.”
SDF project coordinator and Dean of Future World College, Asumini Awadhi acknowledges that 450 young people had the opportunity to train and become motorcycle assemblers at her college.
The three-month training was held at Future World College after which the youngsters were attached to various industries and garages for practical training.
“Out of the 450 young people who graduated from the skills training programme, 80 were able to find employment in various fields and some are now self-employed,” shares Asumini.
In addition, through SDF funding, Future World College became more independent in the field of driver training and motorcycle maintenance, which made the college more recognisable hence attracting more students.
Clearly, Asumini notes, that the SDF has been one of the liberators in creating jobs, especially for the youth. It has also helped to raise and build the reputation of the institutions that provide relevant training.
“Most training institutions, especially private ones, are now credited with a different standard by the government, this wasn’t the case previously,” says Asumini.
The training, funded by the Tanzania Education Authority through SDF, targets young people aged 18-35 with the intention to increase their skills...
In addition to some of the beneficiaries being employed by MeTL motorcycle assembly and sales company, others are getting jobs at Fekon motorcycle assembling company and other motorcycle sales companies in Dar es Salaam, according to education authorities.
Strengthening institutional capacity
The Skills Development Fund aims to enable training institutions to increase quality and efficiency in providing vocational training in key sectors such as agri-business, tourism and hospitality services, transport, construction, Information and Communication Technology and energy.
Coordinated by TEA, the skills training funds also come from the World Bank as part of the Tanzania Education and Skills for Productive Jobs Programme (ESPJ), which aims to strengthen the institutional capacity of the recipients skills development system and to promote the expansion and quality of labour market driven skills development opportunities in select economic sectors.
An education consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Dr Thomas Jabir, says for a long time, when Tanzania has been facing employment challenges, much of the blame has been put on colleges not providing young people with the potential to be employed or self-employed leaving out those who did not reach university level.
“As we seek solutions to the issue of employment we must remember that there are many young people who have completed Form Four, Standard Seven or even dropped out of school for various reasons including poverty. Development partners and the government must look at how to help them all,” he explains.
Dr Jabir applauds government’s move to improve young people’s skills, saying the move would influence more investors to help impart skills to more young Tanzanians through private institutions.
“Government’s move to send major projects through private colleges demonstrates its commitment in ensuring Tanzanian youth acquire skills ...,” he notes.
The move comes at a time when the government through the ministry of education, science and technology has come up with a strategic plan to ensure each district has at least one technical college, where young people will learn the skills to enable them to solve challenges within their respective districts.
Experts say key sectors such as construction and Information and Communication Technology aimed at boosting the industrial economy, lack enough and highly skilled labour force. For instance they say, the internationally recommended ratio for engineers, technicians and artisans is 1:5:25 respectively but in Tanzania the ratio stands at 1:0.2:2.6, which highlights high skills shortages in the sector.
This on the other hand provides plenty of opportunities for youth especially when they are unable to continue with advanced secondary education or university.
Dr Maryline Mbaga from the College of Business Education says, “If one engineer needs five technicians and 25 artisans, Tanzania is far away from the requirements of any successful industrial economy which requires more workers than supervisors.”
“However, initiatives such as the one being implemented by TEA as well as the government’s plan to increase vocational training centres in each district show there is light at the end of the tunnel,” she notes, adding, “Other stakeholders should see the need to support this initiative through TEA so that more young people can continue to be reached.”