INSIGHTS FROM THE FIELD: Working with the TVET sector to build employability

By Prince Kuku Dadzie
Employment and Entrepreneurship Facilitator, Prospects Program

Background to the Technical Education Sector

Technical and Vocational Education and training (TVET) provides an important opportunity for the achievement of employment–oriented and life handling skills and attitudes. According to the Liberian Government’s National TVET Policy for 2015-2020, there are 132 TVET Institutions in Liberia, of which 18 are state-owned. Collectively, these provide training in a wide range of disciplines, including tailoring, masonry, carpentry, electricity, auto-mechanics, soap making, cookery, beauty care, electricity, electronics, building construction, plumbing, procurement and computer science, among others.

Shortcomings of the Sector

However, for a range of reasons, the TVET delivery system has remained largely out of line with the needs of the employment sector. As the National TVET Policy notes, the outmodedness of training equipment and tools, the inadequacy of teaching and learning facilities and instructional support systems, and inadequately trained instructors all contribute to the poor quality of the TVET delivery. In addition, the policy observes  a lack of effective career guidance, counseling and job placement advisory services as well as adequate number of suitably qualified system managers and professionals to drive the entire TVET system.

What are we doing?

Mercy Corps’ Prospects Employment and Entrepreneurship program is currently engaged with 9 TVET institutions in Montserrado, Bong and Grand Bassa counties and to date has provided training to more than 1,000 TVET students. In doing so, the program compliments the technical training that the TVET institute provides, by providing support in key areas required to facilitate youths’ education-to-employment transition.

The program provides soft skills which aim to teach work-ready youth the rightful behavior and ethics that should be exhibited in the workplace. In addition, the program provides training in business skills and subsequently provides the opportunity for them to apply for a grant which enables them to be self- employed. During the grant application process, our facilitators provide one-to-one coaching at the TVET schools and at our Youth Opportunity Centers to help youth refine their business plans. The program  additionally enables TVET students to apply for on-the-job training through three-month apprenticeship placements with host businesses. Finally, in order to build capacity within TVETs, as part of our partnership we offer Training-of-Trainers of our training curriculum with TVET administrators and instructors.

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Some students in training at the Liberia Opportunity Industrialization Center (LOIC) listen to Mercy Corps’ Quality Assurance and Training Coordinator.

What difference are we making?

TVET institutions have emphasized the value of the Employment and Entrepreneurship program. According to Mr. Francis W. Nyepon, Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer at Netlib Vocational Training Institute, “We have been crying and thinking of how to provide soft skills training for our students, thank God that Mercy Corps came in the right time. We have tried every means to have our students trained but to no avail. We should be sending our students out on internships to companies like Firestone and others but the children are really lacking the basic behavior and ethics of work.” During a meeting with our staff, he lamented: “Most of them don’t even know how to write a good application letter or C.V.” Students have also provided positive feedback:  “I am really satisfied with the level of training I received from Mercy Corps. I now know about some things that should not be included in your C.V,” Miss. Salamatu Kallon, a student at the Salvation Army Vocational Institute explained. “My Dad even saw the workbook we used at the training and used the format to update his C.V.”

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