Eswatini is still lagging behind its Southern African Development Community (SADC) counterparts in the financial contribution of industry to skills development.

In addition, there are many issues that need to be tackled to transform the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sector in Eswatini so that it can start to produce the skills necessary to stimulate industrialisation in the country.

However, transforming the sector is a multi-sectoral responsibility that cannot be left to the alone. It is against this backdrop that the Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (ESEPARC) – in partnership with the Ministry of Education & Training and Taiwan Technical Mission – recently hosted a seminar themed ‘Accelerating Job Creation through Vocational Skills: How Can this be Done?’

The purpose of the seminar was to engage vocational institutions, industry practitioners, and the public on a discussion around how the country can improve its TVET system to encourage entrepreneurship among TVET graduates. Join us at the Royal Villas for this important public dialogue on how to transform the TVET system to support industrialisation in Eswatini.

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Training, Bertram Stewart – represented by Under Secretary-Administration Bhekithemba Gama – officially opened the seminar. Stewart noted that TVET has been globally identified as very important in social and economic development, and especially in curbing youth unemployment.

He said according to the country’s Strategic Roadmap 2019, Eswatini is currently faced with a number of challenges that need to be resolved in order to ensure economic growth and stability. These reveal themselves in four main categories: implementation, human capacity and diversification, economy and financial management, and budgeting.

“We often hear of how some countries – such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) – have leveraged on TVET to develop their economies and today they are actually ‘economic giants’ and using their hard-earned capital to support others,” he said.

“Our friends from Mozambique have actually risen from the ashes and have overtaken us in many respects, for instance, their TVET system is well coordinated. Our neighbour South Africa is one of the leading countries, not only in TVET education but also in its application. Also, most European countries have harnessed ICTs in the development of their TVET systems.”

The PS said Eswatini’s wish is to embrace TVET to reach the level exhibited by other countries. He called for a change in attitudes towards TVET and implored emaSwati to adopt the “dignity of labour” attitude, which means that all occupations – whether intellectual or physical – deserve equal respect and dignity.

“No job should be considered superior or inferior. Every job dutifully done with honesty and sincerity deserves appreciation. In fact, TVET can bring fortunes, if well approached. The question is: how can we equip young men and women with the skills required to meet the needs of our economy, and to be as professional as we want them to be?”

Adding, Stewart said government’s efforts to strengthen and expand public TVET institutions can only be possible if industry comes on board as partners. He noted that the Strategic Roadmap 2019 emphasises education as an important pillar of development in fast-tracking economic growth, and TVET as a vehicle to achieve this growth.

“The young people of our country have the potential to contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of our nation. They should be placed at the forefront of building the economy of the country. I challenge industries in the country to lead in supporting TVET. Together we can win this race. TVET definitely has the potential to turnaround Eswatini’s economy,” he added.

ESEPARC Board Member and SME Unit (Ministry of Commerce) Director Mluleki Dlamini noted that there is increasing pressure to invest in better and new models of TVET provision to meet industry needs as well as to encourage development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) among TVET graduates.

He said structural transformation anchored on various pillars such as diversification, linkages, technology, labour productivity, decent work, education and skills, demography, health and poverty and inequality is key for the realisation of sustainable economic growth.

“An educated and skilled workforce is critical to accelerate structural transformation. Formal and informal education systems provide a range of skills for work and life. In particular, improved skill levels facilitate the relocation of labour towards high-productivity sectors. Enhancing demand-driven and work-relevant skills is key to reducing existing skill gaps and mismatches,” he noted.

Furthermore, Dlamini said developing skills, particularly vocational skills, is a priority area for Eswatini to resuscitate economic growth and to stimulate industrialisation. Hence, he said, it is important to discuss how the country can re-engineer and modernise its TVET system to enhance the employability of graduates as well as stimulate income-generating activities among Eswatini’s youth to sustain their livelihoods.

“Creative approaches to TVET design and delivery are a must to cater for labour demands, so as to improve the productivity of industry, and to meet the goals of social and economic inclusion and sustainable development.

“At ESEPARC, we are of the view that to achieve sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction, the country must increase investments in human capacity development through the general education system as well as by elevating technical and vocational education and training,” he added.

Learning from Taiwan and Mozambique

Relating Taiwan’s experience on vocational training in Eswatini, TVET Enhancement Project Specialist Baron Shao-Lun Wang said the project was a result of the governments of Eswatini and Taiwan identifying the need to strengthen the TVET system to cultivate the talents in higher technology as a key for Eswatini to become a modern country.

The TVET Enhancement Project was launched in 2015 through the Ministry of Education and Training. The main purpose of the project is to assist Eswatini College of Technology (ECOT) and VOCTIM to self-sufficiently nurture demanded talents.

“For instance, we have completed a four-year degree programme for two of ECOT’s departments and updated the existing programme for ECOT and VOCTIM’s diploma programme. Also, since the project will invite Taiwan experts to conduct short-term trainings once or twice a year, departments can also use the opportunity to discuss with our experts face to face,” he said.

“I would like to emphasise the importance of investing in TVET as it can make a real difference in the lives of countless young people nationwide as they can build self-confidence and leadership skills thus utilising their talents more competently while earning a living. TVET is a tool for productivity enhancement and poverty reduction. With that said, I would like to express appreciation to our stakeholders, the MoET, ECOT, and VOCTIM for working diligently to ensure that the project goals are realised.”

Meanwhile, Dr Manuel Caetano from Mozambique’s Ministry of Science and Technology, Higher Education and Professional Training shared that over the past decade, his country has been reforming its TVET system from supply-based to a demand-led training system to provide beneficiaries with more market relevant skills and improved employment and economic opportunities.

He said the new TVET system meant to contribute to economic, social, inclusive, and sustainable development, resulted in enterprises and the Mozambican economy being more competitive through the training of competent entrepreneurs and citizens.

Dr Caetano noted that elements underpinning the reform include the establishment of an institutional framework for the governance and management of TVET, with active involvement of stakeholders in the decision making process; and development of an integrated National Qualifications Framework based on competency standards, aligned with the needs of industry.

To turn around its system, Mozambique also improved the quality of training through infrastructure, equipment and training of TVET trainers and managers, enacted TVET legislation, created a TVET Regulatory Body, created a TVET National Training Fund with contributions from the private sector (0.65% of the payroll), provided autonomy to TVET institutions, and created a Labour Market Information and Observation System.