Improving technical and vocational training has become a top priority for Gabon as it looks to shift the focus of education towards more marketable skills and align programmes with the demands of the labour market, especially growth sectors such as mining and forestry.

TECHNICAL SCHOOLS: Indeed, Gabon currently suffers from a shortage in technical and managerial competences, particularly in growth industries. Around 54% of jobs currently on offer require technical skills, according to the National Employment Office. The government has committed to expanding technical education and professional training so that the proportion of students in these programmes reaches 20% by 2020.

Therefore a number of technical schools and vocational training centres are in the pipeline to make the Gabonese education system more relevant to the job market by investing up to CFA207.1bn (€310.65m) in the sector over the next decade. Gabon’s 11 technical schools, attended by some 9000 students, will receive an infusion of CFA9bn (€13.5m), while CFA150bn (€225m) is to be spent on constructing and providing equipment in 15 new technical schools by 2020, each with a capacity to receive up to 1000 students.

As for professional training, Libreville is home to two training centres, known in French as centre de in each of Port-Gentil, Franceville, Makokou, Koulamoutou, Oyem and Tchibanga. Two more are in the pipeline at Mouila and Lambaréné. Additionally, CFA26.25bn (€39.38m) will be allocated to construct 50 mini-centres for training specialising in activities such as construction and automobile and machine maintenance.

GLOBAL SUPPORT: The sector has also received support from international institutions and organisations in recent years. A professional training support project was launched in 2008 to which the European Development Fund contributed CFA2.8bn (€4.2m) to support graduates of the Gabonese school system.

The African Development Bank approved a CFA81.4bn (€122.1m) loan in 2009 to finance a five-year programme in higher education and vocational training under the Public Services Higher Education and Vocational Training Support Project, mainly to construct and refurbish campuses and schools. Moreover, international firms, especially in the extractive industries, have shown keen interest to invest in local human resources in partnership with the government to train young Gabonese primarily from elite technical institutions.

The Institute of Oil and Gas (Institut de formation aux métiers du pétrole et du gaz, IPG) was established in 2010 through a partnership between the Gabonese government, the French Petroleum Institute and major players in Gabon’s oil and gas industry, including Shell, Total Gabon, Perenco, Addax Petroleum and ENI. Total Gabon immediately recruited nine of the first 13 graduates of the institute in 2011. Founded in 2003, the Professional Specialisation Centre (CSP) in Port-Gentil, provides specialised training in applied skills such instrumentation and mechanics to 30 students.

TRAINING ABROAD: Some companies offer to send employees abroad for training. Olam International, a Singapore-based agriculture and natural resources conglomerate, has partnered with Tata Chemicals to send 200 Gabonese workers to India for two- and three-year training programmes. Precious Woods, a Swiss timber exporter, works with the Swiss government to provide university exchanges and support two schools in the Eboué region to train technicians. Other multinational companies have partnered with local universities to create internship programmes for practical training.

The country’s programme to develop vocational training should help address drop-out rates in primary and secondary schools backed by government plans to create professional baccalaureate certificates and Brevets de Technicien Supérieur certificates in technical high schools. The construction of more training centres will mean substantial investment in personnel. The government will allocate CFA900m (€450,000) to train and hire 300 teachers and instructors. In the meantime, Gabon is likely to continue importing skilled labour.