The government’s emphasis on economy-stimulating construction projects has increased the demand for skilled construction labour across the country. This, coupled with the persistently high youth unemployment rate – 42% as of 2014 according to the World Bank – has put the spotlight on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes designed to match this demand for trained workers with a strong supply.
A Tested Concept
Vocational training is not a new concept in Egypt. One of the most iconic efforts is the Mubarak-Kohl Initiative (MKI), also known as the dual system (DS), a programme launched in 1994 by the Ministry of Education (MoE), the German international cooperation enterprise GTZ (now part of the larger GIZ), and several private sector players. The programme facilitates two days a week in a technical secondary school and four days training with a company for students.
Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed, chairman of the Forum for Training and Education (FORTE), a non-governmental organisation that works to augment vocational training efforts in Greater Cairo, told OBG that since the programme’s inception, over 20,000 students have passed through this particular certification process.
According to the GTZ, 76 technical secondary schools identified as MKI-DS schools, with 1900 companies providing training slots for students. Overall, this type of technical education represents the bulk of Egypt’s TVET programmes, reaching around 1.6m students and 140,000 teachers, according to a 2015 OECD report.
Despite these programmes, Ahmed told OBG that increased vocational training opportunities are crucial. Estimating the annual demand for skilled labourers at 200,000, he noted that the DS only produces 30,000 graduates per year across the country.
In addition to the numbers being too low, a recent World Bank report on workforce development in Egypt highlighted an ongoing mismatch between the skills required by companies and those being supplied by vocational training programmes. The agricultural sector, for example, employs 28% of the workforce, but agriculture-related technical secondary schools represent only 9% of this segment of education facilities.
The private sector has played an ongoing role in vocational training, and Germany has remained a major player in this field. For the past three years, Mercedes-Benz Egypt has operated the Mercedes-Benz Egypt Mechatronic Academy in 6th October City, celebrating its first graduation in 2015. Siemens, meanwhile, announced in April 2016 the launch of its six-month vocational programme designed to train 600 Egyptian engineers and technicians in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy.
Egyptian & International Efforts
The MoE has taken concrete steps to reform the government’s involvement in TVET, which is fragmented, involving over 20 ministries and institutions. The ministry’s Technical Education Strategy (2011/12-2016-17) notes the need to establish a technical education system that links students more directly to the country’s economic and social development. In June 2015 Mohamed Youssef, deputy education minister for technical and vocational training, said the government’s plan was to commit €197m for the development of the vocational education schools in Egypt over the next five years.
On the international front, at the end of 2015 the US Embassy in Cairo announced the launch of the $22.1m “Workforce Improvement and Skills Enhancement” programme, which will support quality education at vocational schools in partnership with manufacturing and service companies to develop the technical skills and professional prospects of students over the next four years. Ahmed believes these new initiatives must be accompanied by an attitude shift regarding the value of labourers in society to achieve lasting change.
To provide the necessary skilled labour and curb the 12.6% unemployment rate in 2016, as reported by Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics, the focus on vocational training must continue.
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