Interview: Ahmed Alfahaid

How is TVTC working with other stakeholders to develop a unified vision for the training segment?

AHMED ALFAHAID: This is a very important question for the future of the Saudi technical and vocational education and training (TVET) system and the economy as a whole. It is critical to align with Saudi Vision 2030, which was recently launched by the government. Clarifying the mandates of all actors has been a focus for both TVTC and its key stakeholders, but further work is still needed. We will continue engaging in a dialogue with the various TVET actors in the Kingdom – the Ministry of Labour, Human Resources Development Fund, social development organisations and private training providers, to name just a few. It will be paramount to further clarify the different mandates and roles across the value chain.

Another important interface is with the Ministry of Education. We need to find more effective ways to work together with universities and jointly implement our individual mandates as defined in the Afaq (horizon) plan of Vision 2030. One of the key enablers for deeper collaboration is the creation of flexible pathways between education systems and strengthening the role of TVET within K-12 education.

To what extent is TVTC coordinating with private sector companies to ensure that it is developing demand-driven programmes?

ALFAHAID: We are convinced that strengthening links to industry is a key success factor for improving the image of TVET. This is one of TVTC’s strategic imperatives in the coming years.

We aim to ensure that our curricula are based on industry needs and revised on a continuous basis. First, our plan is to increase the autonomy of individual colleges and find selected private sector operators for them. These operators, together with industry, have the responsibility to design the curricula in order to meet ambitious employment targets in their areas. Second, TVTC will work closely with the sector skills councils. We aim to build a continuous link between the study programmes offered and what the labour market needs in each sector and region. The first successes here are already visible in the thousands of students enrolled in industry training following the announcement of the Saudiisation target in March 2016. Lastly, a core part of TVTC’s private sector cooperation lies in strategic partnerships with private sector companies. The continued growth of these strategic partnerships is another one of our primary areas of focus.

How can the TVTC make skilled labour professions more appealing to Saudi nationals?

ALFAHAID: To improve the image of TVET, we need to ensure our programmes lead students to well-respected, high-paying jobs relevant to their field of education. The first step is close integration with industry to ensure we are training people for jobs that are needed in the market. Then we must ensure our training is of a uniformly high quality across all institutions, public or private. Stronger quality assurance will play a key role in further standardising value in the future. We also need to make the differences between high-quality TVET professionals and untrained employees using similar titles more transparent. For these purposes, we will work on a national workforce accreditation programme.

What opportunities are there for foreign companies to participate in public-private partnerships within the training sector?

ALFAHAID: Foreign companies will continue to play an important supporting role in the Kingdom’s TVET delivery in the future, and this is crucial for facilitating knowledge transfer to local workers. Today, TVTC engages with leading education providers in operating its recently founded Colleges of Excellence.