The world has been so overwhelmed with the desperation of unemployment
that workforce retraining has become the
gospel in the aftermath of the global
financial crisis. The trauma spread so fast
that even isolated islands could not escape
it. For underdeveloped countries suffering
from massive structural unemployment, the
event exposed systemic vulnerability.
The Ethiopian reality was not so different, although the EPRDFites
refused to accept this. With labour market
distortion remaining a major economic glitch
even after years of robust economic growth,
vulnerability expanded swiftly. Insecurity
prevailed, even though its magnitude
differed between sectors and the
As long as the unemployment problem remains structural, so should be
the solution, argued the Revolutionary
Democrats. To this end, they revitalised
Technical and Vocational Education and
Training (TVET) albeit with a new approach.
Yet, the three-year average performance of a
25pc pass rate in occupational assessment
and certification exams reveals that TVET is
far from being the rescuer.
Poor systemic integration and a top down certification approach
challenge sectoral performance, argued
Progressive integration is an acclaimed global experience and
Ethiopiaís case is no different, claimed the
The politicisation of TVET provision is a major predicament, especially
at a local level, contended the political
As the debate continues, the nine-month report of the Addis Abeba City
Administrationís Occupational Assessment and
Certification Center that was announced in
April 2011, revealed that only a shocking
13pc of students who applied were certified.
Whereas 16.8pc of level-C and 46pc of level-B TVET teachers are
accredited, the overall three-year average
performance witnessed a fail rate of 75pc.
While the sector was envisioned to be the foundation of industrial
takeoff, as stated in the National TVET
Strategy that was adopted in 2008, a rising
number of loafers would indisputably put the
plan on ice. While the official unemployment
rate stands at 26pc, with 46pc of the
workforce in the informal sector, the
certification relapse would burden the
economy with even more disguised labour.
By contrast, global experiences in vocational training show the success
rate can be pushed far higher.
Over 51pc of all young people in Germany under the age of 22 had
undergone vocational training by 2008. In
South Korea, the vocational education
success rate stood at 67pc in 2010, even if
only five per cent of students were enrolled
in polytechnic schools. With 60pc of the
vocational training context defined by the
industry, the success rate of TVET
certification in Australia was 73pc, in
The Revolutionary Democrats have a globally acknowledged reputation for
providing access to TVET training. The
number of trainees has increased fivefold
between 2005 and 2010, reaching over
700,000, according to the GTP. The number of
public TVET facilities in the country also
witnessed a significant leap from 17 in 1997
to 253 in 2010. Female participation also
increased to 50pc in 2010 from 48.2pc in
Regardless of the structural similarities with Norway, Finland, and
Sweden, the Ethiopian TVET system does not
seem to drive industrialisation, as was
envisaged. Benchmarking best experiences
from the Philippines and Australia did not
even improve the success rate. Instead, the
sector remained theory driven, unresponsive
to labour market needs, and less integrated
with industrial sectors while also offering
low quality education.
Compounded by the structural distortion in the labour market, the
system has aggravated the skill and
geographic mismatch. It would also annually
add 0.06pc to the existing official
unemployment rate, estimates showed. This
would burden the economy by pushing the
dependency rate upwards.
The EPRDFites seem to accept that problems exist. As a way out, they
have made ambitious plans to raise the
number of employable TVET graduates to 90pc
in 2015. The number of certified graduates
would also increase to 60pc, according to
their plan. Yet, the plan fails to state the
baseline upon which progress is to be
In linking the sector with industrialisation, the plan envisages that
TVET would establish a strong foundation for
employment generation, import substitution,
and improved foreign exchange earnings.
Noting that implementation progress is far behind the planned targets,
the road ahead is uncertain. So long as TVET
education is costly, with national
expenditure on it standing at 4.6 billion Br
in 2005 (8.6pc of the overall education
expenditure), every dime should have been
linked to concrete results defined by both
quality and quantity.
The institutional structure of the TVET sector lacks integration and a
feedback system. The decentralisation of the
system has resulted in a lack of integration
between authorities at the federal,
regional, and local levels. With the result
of the professional assessment and
certification process not being used for
curriculum development, each goes their
Complemented by a lack of market assessment capacity at a local level,
partial autonomy resulted in ineptitude,
both on individual and institutional levels.
The absence of a performance based incentive structure, in which
teachers and institutions are offered
incentives in proportion to student
certification rate, has bred inefficiency.
Frequent changes in curriculum also
contributed to the mounting competence
certification failure rate.
Meanwhile, the long list of problems the sector faces should not push
the focus away from essential solutions. The
sector should respond to local labour market
requirements and progressive
decentralisation to lead to ultimate
autonomy. Building local level research
capacity could be the entry point.
So long as TVET decentralisation remains the envisioned delivery
scheme, creating an integrated feedback loop
is essential. Assessment and certification
outcomes should be used as inputs of
curriculum design. Similarly, the
certification system should be customised to
a realistic training situation.
To catch up with the changing world, the whole training and
certification process should be automated.
In doing so, linking the process with the
industrial, technological, and Micro and
Small Enterprise (MSE) sectors is
imperative. TVET institutions should not
only send students to industries for
apprenticeships, but industries should
approach the institutions for customised
technological and business solutions.
By way of expanding access, the approach should focus on inclusiveness
as it would open the window of opportunity
for marginalised groups, such as rural
people, school dropouts, women, and
unemployed youth. Yet, quality should not be
dispensed of for the sake of expanding
Above all, creating an innovative market based incentive structure
should be the way forward. One such a system
could be venture financing.
With the establishment of a customised venture financing policy,
investment attraction for TVET technologies
and business solutions would be painless
along with technology adoption, transfer,
expansion and scaling up. Systemic
sustainability could also be guaranteed.
Provided that reforming the system would demand flexible policymaking
and relentless political will, the EPRDFites
should play the card cleverly. In one way or
another, systemic change would entail
political give and take, and the same is
true of reforming TVET.