In addition to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, Oman’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) also has a key role in the sector, with its responsibilities including oversight of technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
The ministry exercises this role via two directorates general – one for vocational training and the other for technical training – and TVET-Oman, which has been working to bring together a wide variety of stakeholders, from the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry to the General Federation of Oman Trade Unions, to implement a national TVET strategy. This strategy attempts to address any mismatches between the needs of the labour market and the skills and abilities of young graduates. Responsible for balancing the labour market, the MoM and TVET-Oman have been pursuing a four-pronged programme, which also seeks to increase the number of nationals working in the private and public sectors.
Oman has established vocational training centres, each aimed at serving a cluster of governorates with a range of practical programmes. The centres are located at Seeb, Saham, Sur, Ibri, Shinas and Al Buraimi and offer courses in subjects ranging from electrical engineering to business studies. The MoM also runs two training institutes aimed at the fisheries and maritime industries, the first of which is at Al Khabourah and the second at Salalah. The Council of Higher Education approves the programmes offered at the centres and institutes.
The Directorate General for Technical Training also runs a string of colleges of technology (CTs). Seven of these are currently operating, with the oldest being the Higher College of Technology, based in Muscat. The other six are in Al Musanna, Nizwa, Ibra, Salalah, Shinas and Ibri. The CTs offer courses on subjects such as pharmacy, fashion design and photography, as well as engineering and IT, and courses are offered at the diploma, higher diploma and B-tech levels.
With all programmes approved by the CHE and with the Oman Academic Accreditation Authority also ensuring quality control, enrolment at the CTs has been growing steadily. According to figures from the MoM and the National Centre for Statistics and Information, in 2012, 31,550 students were studying at the colleges, while the 2013/14 academic year saw 33,312 registered.
Furthering quality control and implementing standards that meet international criteria both fall under the remit of the Occupational Standards and Testing Centre, which issues occupational standards for a range of jobs that can then act as benchmarks for developing vocational and technical programmes. It also works in close cooperation with private sector companies and experts in designing standards and programmes that meet the requirements of employers and the development objectives of Vision 2020.
National training projects (NTPs) are the final piece of the puzzle. These are vocational programmes tailored to specific jobs. So far, these have largely been in the tourism, oil and gas, transport and communications sectors. Training providers from both the public and private sectors are active in the NTP segment, with private training institutes springing up across the country. Certain large corporations and government-linked entities have established their own centres for training. For example, Oman National Training Institute, a subsidiary of Oman National Engineering and Investment Company, offers courses in marketing, IT and management.
For many businesses the key is not only successfully linking what is taught and what is needed, but also demonstrating to young Omanis that their future – which will likely be quite different from the secure, public-sector-dominated world of their parents – can also be one of great excitement and potential. Getting this message across will take time – with the TVET sector playing a leading role in delivering it.