Three Strategies To Increase The Impact Of Skills Development Initiatives According To Experts

Upskilling and Reskilling, Initial vocational education and training
The private sector in Uganda accounts for 90% of all off-farm private sector jobs according Uganda’s Finance Ministry. Harnessing the potential of the sector to address the issues of unemployment is a priority. 

Swisscontact hosted its inaugural skills development promotion which was attended by Swisscontact project participants, the private and public sector stakeholders including representatives of development organizations at the Protea Skyz hotel-Kampala. The event brought together stakeholders and experts to share experiences and deliberate on how to maximize the potential of skills development initiatives for employment especially for the youth in Uganda.

Among the highlights of the event was the testimonies given by 3 Swisscontact project participants followed by a  discussion panel comprising of skills development experts from the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, GIZ, Enabel – Belgian Development Agency, Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU).

Celebrating the achievements of the young people

In his opening remark, Pavlos Troulis, the Country Director, Swisscontact in Uganda said he was happy to see the different stakeholders gathering to celebrate the achievements of the youth in finding jobs as well as creating jobs where they even employ others.

Pavlos Troulis, country director, Swisscontact remarked that "We are celebrating the achievements of young people that have been supported by the efforts of the private sector and facilitation by Swisscontact  in Uganda. We are proud of the journey the youth have experienced over the years growing from strength to strength and improving their livelihoods"

Pavlos underscored Swisscontact’s project implementation approach that differentiates it from other implementers such as  working with vulnerable and disadvantaged people and communities, the private and public sector to identify market opportunities and creating linkages instead of giving hand-outs to project participants.

"Linking our beneficiaries to the best possible opportunities is the way we work"

Pavlos concluded his introductory remarks by highlighting that over the past 10 years, Swisscontact through the ULEARN and LSDY projects has reached 29,520 (9,446 female) youth. To date, 21,321 youth have found employment through the two skills development projects, and experienced a total income increase of UGX 7.8 billion.


Beneficiary testimonies

"After receiving training and support to start growing hot pepper, I became financially independent. My confidence has increased and I even realized my childhood dream of becoming a manager" 

Doreen Nassango is a hot pepper farmer. She supports and supervises over 80 indirect beneficiaries who have since planted 200 acres of hot pepper.

"Passion fruit farming has become my main source of income. As a trainer of trainers (ToT), I am also introducing other youth in Manafwa and Namisindwa districts to passion fruit growing"

Patrick Watsena from Manafwa district is a passion fruit farmer - one of the agribusiness enterprises introduced by Swisscontact in partnership with the private sector.

"I am now highly marketable because of the skills I gained in construction. Despite being a school dropout, I now aspire to become an engineer" 

Patrick Andugubo, a U-Learn beneficiary, is now an experienced mason in Masindi. He is now able to earn an income to support himself and his siblings.

Strategies to increase the impact of skills development initiatives

The private sector in Uganda accounts for 90% of all off-farm jobs according Uganda’s Finance Ministry. Harnessing the potential of the sector to address the issues of unemployment is a priority. During the panel discussion, the skills development experts offered strategies to leverage skills development initiatives to increase employment in Uganda- especially among the youth.

Left - Right: Benjamin Mulinda (GIZ), Mondo Kyateka (MGLSD), Ruth Biyinzika (PSFU), Patrick Angudubo (ULearn beneficiary), and  Lothar Duelberg (Enabel)

1. Involve the private sector: understand and cater for their needs.

The needs of the private sector are diverse. Regardless of the categorization of firms in the sector whether they are small, medium or somewhere in-between, it’s safe to say that there is no “one-size-fit-all”.  Lothar Duelberg, the Intervention manager for Skills and Governance (SG+) and Support Skilling Uganda (SSU-BE) at Enabel - Belgian Development Agency, said that collaborating with the private sector to find out their skills needs is key. 

The private sector tells you what skills they need, … work with them in finding out what skills need to be developed

Formal assessments such as GIZ’s capacity needs assessment of the oil and gas sector can be a useful source of information not just for designing ‘appropriate’ skills development initiatives, but also as a selling point to leverage investment from both the private and public sector.

Benjamin Mulinda, a technical expert for GIZ Employment for Development/Skills for Oil and Gas Africa (E4D/SOGA), remarked that the success of labor absorption in the sector depends on how well the skilled labor force is aligned with the existing needs.  

To promote employment of the sector, our focus should in understanding the skill needs of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) companies so that skills development stakeholders can prepare the young people with the right skills

2. A change of mindset – from theoretical to practical vocational skills.

Mr. Mondo Kyateka, the Assistant Commissioner for Youth and Children at the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development called for a mind shift to practical vocational skills. He noted that especially for youth, care givers still largely deter youth from pursuing these practical skills. 

As a country we want skills that are practical, transformational in order to drive us into middle income status. This will require changing mindsets so that people become more willing to help their children pursue practical skills in growing sectors such as construction

3. Integrate social and emotional skills.

In her discussion, Ruth Musoke Biyinzika, Head of Skills Development facility at Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) – the apex body of private businesses in Uganda with over 120 business association members, says that they have observed from surveys carried out that the lack of social and emotional skills in young employees is among the top 3 issues faced by SMEs. She therefore advocated for integration of social and emotional skills into skills development programs so that the youth can relate at work – which promotes learning and building of professional relationships as well as market their skills when job hunting.

We need to Integrate social and emotional skills that will enable skilled youth to negotiate contracts, market their skills, and build professional relationships. This can be done by promoting a work-based learning approach through internship, workplace training and industrial attachments

In his remarks while closing the event, Anirban Bhowmik, Swisscontact’s Regional Director for the Central East and South Africa (CESAF), emphasized that empowering the youth requires a strategic and holistic long-term approach, 

Anirban Bhowmik in his concluding remarks said, “It's important to highlight that the way to empower youth is by creating an environment for learning which is a lifelong process”

As project implementers and stakeholders, our views of both project participants and the private sector should change considering their diversity and aspirations, In reality the needs and environment of small and large enterprises tend to differ in the same way the needs of the young people are diverse and different. We need to respect these diversities and aspirationssaid Bhowmik

In the same line of thinking, the regional director emphasized the need for government to start playing a stronger facilitative role if Uganda’s vision 2040 is to be realized, We should think about the role of public sector also. Government can also play a strong facilitative role as Swisscontact does. This conversation needs to be had in light of Vision of 2040 in realizing this vision

The ULearn Project is financed by Mastercard Foundation. The Local Skills Development for Youth (LSDY) project was financed by the Happel Stiftung, Green Leaves Education Foundation, among other donors, and was part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which was co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.