Vocational Training in Yemen: Hitting the Nail on the Head [Archives:1999/09/Viewpoint]

March 1 1999

On Saturday, February 27th, an international conference on vocational training and technical education was concluded in Sanaa. The various local, Arab and world experts discussed several ways to upgrade and improve the quality of skills that are to be passed on to Yemenis. It was an important effort aimed at the future development of the nation.

There are three important guiding factors that I thought were well thought out in the conference. These are as follows:

1) Market Oriented Skills:
The skills and training that the young men and women will be given are those that are demanded by the market. In other words, the programs will impart employable skills to the young trainees. This is wise because, although technical education is important, not all kinds of skills are needed in Yemen today. Some skills may be too advanced and will not provide adequate jobs for the graduates. Some skills may have a more visible linkage effect and will feed the growth of other businesses and activities, thus enabling the economy to grow faster.

2) Learning from Others:
The philosophy of learning from the experiences of other nations is often given lip service in the development efforts of Third World countries. However, this conference made a genuine effort to study the cases of several relevant countries. On top of this list were Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco, which have made important strides in vocational and technical development. Far beyond the region, the experiences of Germany and the USA were brought into the picture.

3) Reducing Flow to Universities:
The idea of the conference is to create alternatives to university education for secondary graduates. As a result, the country will be spared the agony of university graduates who have no real skills and thus make no tangible contribution to economic development.
On this basis, the goal is to increase the number of trainees enrolled in vocational and technical education by tenfold from its current low level of less than 10,000.

4) Long-Term Planning:
The conference also called for long-term planning. The thrust is to prepare for a full decade for investments in this sector, based on future needs of the country. As a result, the analysis runs all the way to the year 2008.
The hope is that the ambitious master plan to be drawn up will not just remain on paper. It will see the light in terms of implementation and execution.

The National Conference on Technical Education and Vocational Training was indeed a bright spot in these frustrating times. The Minister of Labor and Vocational Training, Engineer Mohammed Al-Tayeb, and the team of young men and women deserve our appreciation and support for their fine work.
If there is any word of advice that I may want to give, it has to do with gender. Most Yemenis see vocational/technical training as a man’s domain. It should not be. Women also deserve to be involved in this sector.