Interview: Ali Al Ghafis
What role is the private sector playing in expanding the capacity of the Kingdom’s training sector?
ALI AL GHAFIS: TVTC has taken two approaches in developing the training sector, both of which involve close coordination with the private sector. The first is the strategic partnerships programme where we are working with local businesses to develop institutes such as the High Institute for Plastic Fabrication, which is a public-private partnership (PPP) between TVTC, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, Saudi Aramco and several plastics manufacturers. Now our main focus is largely shifting towards the new Colleges of Excellence (CoE) programme. TVTC builds and owns the various colleges, but has brought in foreign operators to run them. The programme started in 2012 and has expanded to 36 colleges, with one more on the way. Our goal is to expand our enrolment to 300,000 by 2020. The operators are leading international education colleges and schools, mainly hailing from North America and Europe. The CoE will create institutes with a sectoral focus that can supply a wider range of graduates, which will in turn increase the quality of the local labour force.
To what extent is TVTC coordinating with industry in developing programmes and curricula?
AL GHAFIS: In the OECD 56% of high school graduates go to four-year colleges. In Saudi Arabia the rate is 94% of graduates, with many of those getting degrees in the social sciences. This is creating a mismatch in labour market demands. 81% of the labour market needs are technical or vocational jobs, which means that much of this mismatch is filled by expatriate workers. By working with the applicable stakeholders to develop our programmes we are helping to fill this gap. In this way we are helping businesses find qualified Saudi nationals and also helping locals find quality employment opportunities. The CoE has taken a sectoral approach with each college focusing on a specific area of the economy and working with the appropriate organisations operating these programmes. For example, we have energy-focused colleges working with Saudi Aramco and tourism-focused colleges working with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. Practical experience is also critical for guaranteeing successful outcomes in the job market for technical and vocational education and training students. CoE training providers will offer a significant component of practical and on-the-job training to their students as part of their programmes, working closely with local employers. CoE has set up a dedicated taskforce to support coordination with local employers.
What are the incentives available to foreign operators working within the CoE’s PPP model?
AL GHAFIS: Bringing in the highest quality training providers to the Kingdom is a priority of the CoE. Colleges will be funded in two ways. The first will be a base payment that depends on enrolment, attendance, full- to repeat an academic year. There will also be a performance payment that depends on assessment of the pass rates of students, accreditation rating of the college and employment rates of graduates. All providers will be expected to incorporate some performance-based incentives into their remuneration, and providers willing to take greater performance-based risks could seek higher overall funding levels than those relying on guaranteed funding. While the college infrastructure has already been set up, CoE acknowledges that the financing of training equipment can be challenging. CoE is therefore committed to providing financing options to new colleges that will ensure minimal upfront capital expenditure as part of the setup of operations in the Kingdom. In addition, given the limited information initially available to training providers on local demand, CoE will guarantee student capacity to training providers for the initial years of operations and will be financially liable for a share of student places. Another measure to reduce provider risk is that the CoE will guarantee a minimum level of enrolment at colleges.
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