With its sights set on achieving emerging nation status by 2020, Côte d’Ivoire is looking to strengthen its technical and vocational training capacity to better respond to its evolving labour market needs.
A reform introduced in 2012 at the technical and vocational training level has allowed for progress in a number of areas. Among other things, new measures enabled the establishment of important partnerships and the development of training, evaluation and certification standards. Moreover, 13 branches of professional studies in line with the country’s evolving economy, were established. The new areas of study, which include agro-industry and industrial maintenance among others, are expected to act as catalysts for growth in the coming years. More recently, the government adopted a new reform plan for vocational and technical education estimated to cost CFA565bn (€847.5m) and expected to run from 2016 to 2020.
The plan aims at easing access to technical and vocational training, to improve the content and quality of training, boost collaboration with the business world and ensure better sector governance. To that end, the plan will aim at building new technical and vocational schools across the country, strengthen equipment and curricula at existing schools, and hire new teaching staff. Local media reported in early 2017 that a round-table is expected to be held in the near future to help channel the necessary funds into the plan.
To build on this momentum, Côte d’ Ivoire’s government, with the assistance of the Global Partnership for Education, an international organisation dedicated to giving children in developing countries access to quality education, is now working on the Education Sector Plan 2016-25, a long-term action plan that among its other goals is expected to address the current and incoming challenges the country’s technical and vocational training sector faces.
Among the issues the plan will address is the gap between the educational offer and the evolving needs of the country’s labour market, a gap which is reflected in relatively high unemployment rates among professionals with higher education.
A survey conducted in 2012 showed a 27.8% unemployment rate among holders of a DUT (diplôme universitaire de technologie) diploma and a 35.7% unemployment rate among holders of a BTS (brevet technique supérieur) diploma. At the graduate level, 23.9% of those with a DESS (diplôme d’etude supérieur spécialise) were unemployed, while that figure reached 42.9% for holders of a master’s degree.
Areas Requiring Attention
Aligning the offer with labour market needs will require the country to, among other things, anticipate the skills needed and provide training in line with its development strategy, in which sectors such as agriculture, transport and construction enjoy central roles. Such a strategy will also necessarily require successfully engaging industry players. In its 2016 report entitled “Multi-Dimensional View of Côte d’Ivoire” (vol. 3), the OECD noted three areas in particular need of political attention; “upgrading education through better initial and on-the-job teacher training; adapting technical and vocational education to the labour market through greater employer involvement in devising and teaching programmes; and giving certificates to workers for their skills rather than for what courses they have taken”.
According to the report, the plan currently being devised aims in particular to better incorporate technical and vocational training into the existing school system, increase employers’ contribution to the content and design of teaching modules, anticipate labour market trends, increase apprenticeships available to students and facilitate the certification of skills. Collectively, these measures are expected to make technical and vocational training more responsive to labour market needs as well as more attractive to students.
An experimental phase was launched at the start of the 2016-17 academic year to incorporate vocational training into primary level education. The project is being carried out across 10 different schools nationwide for students aged 13-15 in a bid to improve the quality of training and foster better access to technical education. This step is intended as a two-year initiation for students looking to acquire vocational training certification in the future.
Offer & Demand
But while technical and vocational training attracts a growing number of students, the country’s ability to respond to demand remains limited. According to Côte d’Ivoire’s National Development Plan 2016-20, between 2011 and 2014 alone, enrolment in technical and vocational training courses increased by an annual average of 29%.
In the 2014/15 school year the country had a total of 304 technical and vocational training institutions with the capacity to accommodate some 52,000 students, significantly below annual demand, which is estimated at 75,000. Demand is also likely to increase in the coming years. According to a survey carried out in 2013, every year a pool of some 165,000 students exit the general school system, which could potentially pursue technical and vocational training.
The private sector has played a particularly significant role at this level. It accounts for the majority of technical and vocational training institutions in the country – 245 out of 304 in 2014/15 – and has seen its share of enrolment increase steadily. In 2012-13 private institutions accounted for 30.7% of enrolled students, an increase from 21.1% the previous year. The public sector, for its part, accounted for an additional 59 institutions in 2014-15, with 11 new technical education and vocational training schools in the pipeline according to an official statement made in May 2016, and according to which the government is investing CFA53bn (€79.5m) for their construction. Their completion is expected within months and will be located in Abidjan, Botro, Bouaflé, Bouna, Issia, Bouaké, Man, Yamoussoukro and Zouan-Hounien.
The country’s combined offer includes 96 specialisations in 13 areas; 56 linked to the industrial sector and 14 to the services sector. In 2014 programmes geared toward the services sector accounted for the largest share of enrolment (57.2%), while agricultural programmes comprised just 0.1% of students.
A fresh focus on the development of an entrepreneurial spirit in the school system at large could also energise the country’s longer-term prospects for human capital development. While authorities are still working to develop the methods for inclusion of the concept into the school curricula, the initiative will aim to instil an entrepreneurial spirit in students by compelling them to develop projects in the form of products or services, in response to the country’s socio-economic needs. To this end, a consultation was held in Yamoussoukro in April 2016, which gathered experts from both the public and private sectors. Among the experts present were representatives from a number of sectors, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Industry and Mines, the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training, the Ministry of National Entrepreneurship and promotion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Though still in its initial stages, the approach is a significant step in the direction of a more vibrant and innovative education sector, and is also in line with the country’s wider goal of improving the environment for the expansion of SMEs, a pillar of the national development strategy.
The success of ongoing efforts to improve skills in the workforce will be linked to the progress made in reducing the illiteracy rate. According to UNESCO, adult literacy remained low at 43% in 2015, in part a result of the dip in education investment in the early 1990s and early 2010s. The government’s strategic plan aims to reduce the country’s overall illiteracy rate to 35% by 2020, which could see positive ripple effects in productivity.
Meanwhile, demographic changes are likely to place increasing pressure on the existing education system. According to the OECD, by 2020 the number of children of early primary school age is set to reach 3.5m, an increase from 2.3m in 2000, while the number of students between 5-14 years of age is expected to increase by roughly 1.4m, to 7.35m. Accommodating the increasing number of students will require continuous investment in infrastructure, equipment and supplies, as well as teacher training.
Innovative and effective public-private partnerships could prove key to increasing access to basic education, especially in rural areas, and there are already signs of this. In early 2016 the Jacobs Foundation, a Swiss research and learning organisation targeting the development of children and young people, with the support of the Ivorian government and the cocoa chocolate industry, among other partners, launched Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC), an initiative aimed at delivering quality education in cocoa-growing communities.
According to the Jacobs Foundation, TRECC has been gaining momentum as new partnerships are forged with government, industry and other international funders. The initiative, which started with an initial commitment of $52m by the Jacobs Foundation, is expected to mobilise over $50m in funding over the next five years. In addition to working to implement joint education projects co-financed by the cocoa industry, TRECC is also investing in early childhood development and designing pilot projects for educational technologies in partnership with the Ministry of Education.
Efforts under TRECC are also being aligned with the industry-wide strategy known as CocoaAction, a platform created by 10 major producers in the cocoa and chocolate industry, under the leadership of the World Cocoa Foundation, which aims to improve the quality of life of cocoa farmers and ensure the sustainability of cocoa production. CocoaAction has pledged to improve conditions for some 300,000 cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana by 2020, through a number of initiatives to strengthen primary education, eradicate child labour and empower women.
According to the Jacobs Foundation, in Côte d’Ivoire, roughly 8m people depend on cocoa farming for their livelihood, living below the poverty line and with little access to education. Increasing access to basic education has proved particularly difficult in rural areas, where some 45% of 6-12-year-olds are not enrolled in school and roughly two-thirds (63%) of 15-24-year-olds have not completed primary school.
As Côte d’Ivoire searches for innovative approaches to human capital development in a fast-paced environment, the coming years should see continued focus on technical and vocational skills and added emphasis being placed on cross-sector partnerships of this kind.