Vocational skills: A still untapped potential for Egypt

While the notion of life-long learning emerged in 1970, however, it has brought to the forefront recently  by a number of international institutions such as  the IMF,  World Bank  and World Economic Forum just  to name a few. The ILO Centennial Declaration on the “Future of Work” which has been endorsed by the UN General Assembly in September 2019 emphasized the importance of skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling.  At the turn of this decade, it was predicted that technological, demographic and climate changes as well as the globalization were the key determinants shaping the “Future of Work”. Yet, COVID-19 (unparalleled game changer) come into play not only to fast forward the “Future of Work” but to instigate disruption and create a “New Normal” on all fronts.

Skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID 19 and beyond is the theme of the World Youth Skills Day this year which comes on the backdrop of unprecedented conditions that resulted in full or partial lockdown of educational and training institutions across the globe. According to UNESCO, this has affected almost 1.2 billion learners in 143 countries impacting 70% of total enrolled students from pre-primary to tertiary levels worldwide.

Egypt is no exception with the closure of schools and universities severely impacting the skills imparting process including in the area of technical and vocational education. At the outset of the Egyptian Sustainable Development Strategy in 2015; only 4% of students elected to enroll in technical education versus general education track despite having outstanding performance above 85% in prep stage. Further to this, a mere 30% of technical education graduates worked in their field of specialization. This bleak picture is compounded by a very recent statistic issued by the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies pointing that unemployment among the graduates of Technical Secondary Education is four-folds that of General and Azhari; poverty levels are higher among them by 6% compared to General and Azhari Education and 1.5 times that of Tertiary Education graduates.

A study entitled “Labour Skills, Productivity and Human Resources Management” conducted in 2017 by the Egyptian National Competitiveness Council and USAID- Workforce Improvement and Skills Enhancement (WISE) project in cooperation with the Egyptian Center of Public Opinion Research (Baseera) indicated that the outcomes of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) do not match the skills employers are looking for. In fact, 80% of workers acquire the needed skills only while in the workplace. Yet, paradoxically, a third of the employers do not offer formal training. If anything, this highlights the weak link between TVET institutions and the private sector. This comes in stark contrast to the priorities of Egypt’s Vision 2030 technical educational and vocational training strategy.

This strategy’s key objectives included: encouraging private sector’s contribution to technical education development; enhancing the quality of educational and training facilities; adopting a professional development program for teachers and trainers; implementing the «attractive school project»; raising awareness and enhancing social perception; applying an efficient and integrated labor market information system; developing and applying the “Egyptian national qualifications framework” for technical education and vocational training; establishing an academy for technical and vocational education (specialized faculties); and adopting professional practicing license program for vocational and technical education graduates.

Looking at the “Next Normal”, the Ministry of Education and Technical Education has established over the past year more than 10 applied technology schools in partnership with the private sector in the areas of electric cables, consumer durables (aka white goods) and gold. This pilot has been one of the success stories highlighted by the Cabinet of the Egyptian Ministers for up-scaling and replication. The Ministry of Education is institutionalizing the pilot with a plan to upscale it to 50-100 in the near future. This home-grown model is based on international best practices and lessons learned from previous development projects catering to the realization of Egypt’s Vision 2030.

[avatar user=”Amal Mowafy” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”file”]Amal Mowafy (Class 93’ & 98’) is the Chief of Party of USAID Scholars Activity implemented by the American University in Cairo[/avatar]

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